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land Theological 



Ashland Theological Seminary 

Ashland, Ohio 

Spring 1968 



Winona Lake, Indiana 46590 

Ashland Theological Seminary 
Ashland, Ohio 


Spring, 1968 


Introduction to a Theological Bulletin 

the Editor - 2 

A Philosophy of Brethren Church History 

Albert T. Ronk, D. D. 3 

Spirit and Church 

Arthur M. Climenhaga, S. T. D. - - - - 8 

Aspects of Psalm 1 

Bruce C. Stark, Th. D. 19 

Arminius and Arminianism 

Owen H. Alderfer, Ph. D. 25 

» W » I 

Editorial Committee: Owen H. Alderfer, Editor 

Bruce C. Stark 
Joseph R. Shultz, Dean 

Vol. I No. 1 

Published by Ashland Theological Seminary, Ashland, Ohio 44805. 

Introduction to a Theological Bulletin 

THE PUBLICATION of the Ashland Theological Bulletin 
marks a new step for Ashland Theological Seminary. It 
seems appropriate to indicate some of the plans and purposes 
of this venture with the presentation of the first issue. 

The Bulletin is designed to be the voice of Ashland Theo- 
logical Seminary. As such it will seek to reflect the concerns 
and emphases of the Seminary. Further, the Bulletin is pre- 
sented as an instrument for dialogue between the Seminary and 
its institutional peers, and, as well, between the Seminary and 
pastors, students, and interested laymen within the Ashland 
constituency. An additional concern is the promotion of Bib- 
lical and theological learning within the broader Seminary 

The Ashland Theological Bulletin will be published year- 
ly in the beginning. There is the possibility of increasing the 
frequency of publication in the future. Much of the material 
for the Bulletin will come from faculty members of the Semin- 
ary ; however, articles from students, alumni, and friends of the 
Seminary will occasionally appear in the publication. 

Comments and criticisms from friends of the Seminary 
are invited. These should be addressed to the editor at the 

Owen H. Alderfer, editor 

Contributors to this Issue 

Owen H. Alderfer is Professor of Church History at A. T. S. 

Arthur M. Climenhaga is bishop of the Mid-Western and Pacific 
Conferences of the Brethren in Christ Church. He serves A. T. S. as 
Associate Professor of Missions and Contemporary Theology. His article 
is summarized from an address delivered at the Eighth Mennonite World 
Conference, Amsterdam, July 23-30, 1967. 

Albert T. Ronk is Brethren Church Historian and Archivist. His 
work The History of the Brethren Church will be published this summer. 

Bruce C. Stark is Professor of Hebrew and Old Testament at A. T. S. 

A Philosophy of Brethren Church History 
Albert T. Ronk 

FRIENDS of the writer who were interested in his recent stu- 
dies in Brethren Church history asked if the research had 
led to any definite conclusions about this people and movement. 
An historian gathers data for a factual treatise of his subject, 
but he cannot avoid conclusions if his work is thorough and hon- 
est. This experience of concentrating on the faith of his fathers 
has more deeply rooted his Brethren devotion, and confirmed 
it in a strong philosophical conviction. 

Our thought on Brethren history, as a part of general 
church history, is somewhat analogous to the complex of rills 
and rivers that carry the waters of the earth to its seas. It is 
obvious that each branch gathers to its embrace the character 
of its environmental source and flow. Tributarial detritus, so- 
lution and solid, mingles with the flux of the mainstream where 
all united rushes to join the ocean depths. 

Human history is a mighty moving stream. It flows in 
the channel of space-time continuum toward the majestic sea of 
eternity. Every person born of woman; every incident, move- 
ment and crisis; every superstition, tradition and philosophy; 
every faith and religion — all move with the stream, and each 
contributes to the growing mass. 

History is not a chain of unrelated incidents. Each unit 
is deeply rooted in the common setting. It is swayed by its sup- 
porting past, molded by its environmental present, and, in turn, 
contributes to the future then aborning. 

Brethren Church history was the product of a past of 
compelling posture in religious circles without which it would 
have never come to birth. It grew out of what it considered 
forbidding situations into a struggling future of faith lasting 

more than two hundred and sixty years. The fact that it has 
survived for almost three centuries gives strong evidence that 
it has enjoyed some measure of heaven's blessing. 

We are convinced that the founders of the Brethren move- 
ment in Germany, at the beginning of the eighteenth century, 
were born and nurtured for action in the unfinished work of 
reformation. Our consideration of parenthood cannot leave God 
out of the equation. We believe that every person born into 
this world is here for a definite purpose — that there is divine 
intervention in spermic and ovic selection, and in genie recession 
and dominancy. Was not some such truth veiled in Mordecai's 
word to Queen Esther that she had "come to the Kingdom for 
such a time . . . ?" 

The small group that founded the Brethren cause were 
earnestly seeking for a field of service and fruitful witness. 
They believed that the conditions in the State Churches called 
for reform and prayed that they might be deemed worthy to 
help bring it about. The extent to which they were usable to 
the purpose is another matter. Progress is often stalemated 
by human limitations or perversities. Through the history of 
divine-human relations even specifically chosen leaders have 
fallen far short of God's holy desire. Abraham and Sarah out- 
ran His plan in the birth of Ishmael; Moses presumptuously 
smote the rock ; David's hands were too bloody to build the Tem- 
ple; and Peter denied his Lord at the trial. Wherever the 
Brethren have failed in their commitment or calling, the Breth- 
ren have been at fault and not their mission. By the same 
token, every group achievement and personal triumph in life 
and deed, must be attributed to the guiding hand of Deity. 

The Brethren movement was born out of a mystic cloud 
that hovered over the ravaged and restless Palatinate of west- 
ern Germany in the half-century following the Thirty Years' 
War. The State Churches had settled down to a cold dogmatic 
formalism. They revelled in the tax-supported status and legal 
limitation of their number. Moral and spiritual life became 
decadent, a state abhorrent to many of their communicants. 
From that type of church life many withdrew to independency 
and depth of heart-searching. They became known by names 
that somewhat identified their salient characteristics. Among 
them were Spiritists, Inspirationists, Anabaptists, Mennonites, 
Pietists, etc. There was a strong element of mysticism in all 

of the groups gathered from the influence of Boehme, Tauler, 
Arndt, and others. 

The civil and religious climate in Germany at the time 
contributed to the cause for the dissidents to search the records 
for historical facts about the ancient Church. That which they 
found historically agreed with the ideas born from their exper- 
iences. They held that piety must supersede prevailing proflig- 
acy in morals; that church and state must be separate; that 
primitive rites were required in celebration of the sacraments; 
that coercion in religious practice gave way to freedom of 
choice; that the measure of a believer's life must be piety and 
Christ-likeness, and not adherence to a creed or denominational 

The group that covenanted together to seek out the doc- 
trine and practices of the Apostolic Church and finally effected 
the organization in 1708 were moved by a mystic sense and tes- 
tified to "that inward voice," 1 and, "that a man feels inwardly 
and powerfully assured by the Spirit of God." 2 They were so 
confident in their mission that they finalized their trust with 
"our good God who is love purely and impartially, can and will 
add by degrees what may be wanting in this or that knowl- 
edge." 3 The sine qua non of Brethren mission, then, is the deep 
conviction that the group must bear witness to the truth by both 
precept and example. An instance in point is the reply of a 
colonial church father to Benjamin Franklin that the Brethren 
write no creed because they fear they will feel "bound and con- 
fined to it, and perhaps be unwilling to receive further im- 
provement." 4 They found assurance for their position in the 
promise of Jesus that the Holy Spirit "shall guide you into all 
the truth," and, "He shall teach you all things." (John 14:26; 
16:13.) Developing Brethren history has repeatedly confirmed 
to changing generations that methods of implementing their 
mission must meet the prevailing conditions but that truth is 
unchanging and eternal. 

The experiences of division and separation in the Breth- 
ren historical stream have largely been due to disagreements 
over the changing world scene and points of denominational 
emphasis. When disagreements failed to be considered amicably 
by the leaders but grew from different viewpoints to arguments, 
from arguments to disputes, from disputes to controversy, and 
in controversy the clash of personalities, not being agreed dif- 

ferent parties would not walk together. Political, economic, 
social and theological climates are bound to change, calling for 
reevaluation of the Church's image and posture in the world, 
but controversy over points of departure never settle the issues 
in dispute. 

The burden of the seeking free-spirits in the German 
center of Schwarzenau was knowledge of the truth — even 
among many who rejected participation in the organizational 
venture. Those who were moved with strong philosophic moti- 
vation and were assured within that they had discovered his- 
torical truth became so grounded in the faith and practice that 
they passed them on to posterity with a conviction that two and 
one half centuries could not dislodge. The vicissitudes of being 
transplanted into a new world, of ridicule and persecution, of 
controversy and division, and of changing philosophies of turb- 
ulent times have not moved the Brethren from their basic prin- 
ciples, precepts, and tenets. 

The scope of Brethren mission embraces both the ma- 
terial and the spiritual realms. The two elements may become 
discordant, but true to the genius of creation, not inconsonant. 
Since spirit must function with the material in the space-time 
situation, each must be kept in its intentional perspective, and 
each must serve the other. There must be divinely acceptable 
balance. The application in Brethren mission is obvious in the 
literal and detailed observance of all the sacraments. Truth 
is inherently spiritual but the sacramental symbols of truth 
are material. The Brethren have always moved on the principle 
that the best way to teach a lesson is by dramatization — that 
"one picture is worth a thousand words." The danger, however, 
lies in practice: the luster of the truth may become obscured 
by an overemphasis of the symbol. That it has occurred at 
times among the Brethren no one would deny. Misconstrual of 
either truth or symbol in no way annuls them. 

Brethren mission further insisted that precept must find 
expression in action and human relations. Belief in the Lord 
Jesus as the great physician gave substance to James' instruc- 
tion to the sick to be "anointed with oil in the name of the Lord" 
with confession of sin. Anointing the sick became a Brethren 
doctrine. Acceptance of Jesus' exhortation to "swear not at 
all" but to communicate with "yea and nay" called for rigid 
adherance to giving an affirmation rather than an oath. Oppo- 

sition to force in a believer's conduct, either in peace or war, 
gave base for the Brethren tenet of nonresistance and anti-war. 
Biblical concepts of separatedness required practice as well as 
principle in nonconformity to the world. 

It has been said that the Brethren Church is not a theo- 
logical Church, which carries the idea that it is not dogmatically 
theological. That is true. Its organization was based on pietis- 
tic practice and not on the cleavages of theological doctrine. 
That is not to say the Brethren movement has had no theology. 
Theological discussion has been carried on from platform and 
press. Even theological controversy at times muddied the wa- 
ters of the theological stream; but basically, the Brethren ex- 
pounded their theological philosophy, as is stated once in a 
declaration of principles, in this manner: "We hold the gospel 
as our only rule of faith and practice, and that in religion, it 
should be the final and only standard of appeal." 6 

In seeking a divinely instructed balance between the ma- 
terial and the spiritual, the Brethren have sought to direct and 
hold each in its proper sphere. They admit to "being in the 
world," and strive "to be not of the world." Undue emphasis 
on the spiritual would lead to asceticism and the cloister. Mag- 
nifying the obverse side of the religious life, its physical and 
social aspects, invites the dangers of materialism and religious 
humanism. Discernment of a propitious balance lies in individ- 
ual choice. Holiness is a personal goal of sainthood while living 
among the common things of life. Personal faith captures a 
salvation that must be lived in an alien world and gives assur- 
ance of a salvation to be enlarged in a future consumation. 

1 Alexander Mack, Rites and Ordinances (Ashland Ohio: Breth- 
ren Publishing Company, 1939), p. 77 

2 Ibid., p. 80. 

3 Ibid., p. 98 

* Benjamin Franklin, Autobiography. 

5 H. R. Holsinger and S. H. Bashor, "Declaration of Principles," 
Progressive Christian, Vol. Ill, No. 37. 

Spirit and Church 
Akthur M. Climenhaga 

A Word Concerning The Holy Spirit 

TN HIS parting counsels the Lord Jesus Christ spoke freely of 
the Holy Spirit. This is significant in that one of the re- 
markable features of His earlier ministry was His comparative 
silence concerning the Holy Spirit. Earlier occasions were rare 
when He mentioned the Spirit and then always in circumstances 
which made the reference necessary — for example, the word 
to Nicodemus in John 3:15, again speaking of the power of 
prayer and giving of the Holy Spirit in Luke 11:13, and warn- 
ing about the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. But now the 
shadow of the Cross falls over His path and in the fourteenth, 
fifteenth, and sixteenth chapters of John Jesus speaks in the 
Upper Room. In a few pregnant sentences He gathers up all 
that can be said of the Spirit's relation to the Church, the World 
and God. Herein is to be found a summary statement of the 
doctrine of the Spirit as the Third Person of the Trinity. 

Three outstanding truths concerning the Spirit underline 
these teachings of the Christ: 

1. The Spirit comes to take the place of Jesus Christ, to 
be to the disciples all that Christ had been and more 
than He would have become had He stayed with them. 

2. The Holy Spirit promised to the disciples is the self- 
same Spirit who dwelt in the Christ and was the ex- 
planation of His earthly life and ministry. 

3. The Spirit comes to dwell in the disciples as He dwelt 
in Christ in order that Jesus Christ will be repro- 
duced in the disciple thus making him what Christ 
would have been had He stayed on the earth and 
lived where that disciple lives. 1 

A Word Concerning The Church 

Someone once spoke of history as biography "writ large." 
Presumably he meant that to write in detail of a few leaders in 
any country or group is to write in essence of the history of 
that particular country or group. This is particularly true of 
sacred history. 

The history of the early church is a composite of sketches 
in more or less detail of the lives of the early disciples and es- 
pecially of two outstanding leaders, the Apostles Paul and Peter. 
These sketches are in the final analysis the recounting of the 
manifestation and working of the Holy Spirit among men dur- 
ing the several decades following the ascension of our Lord. 
This working of the Spirit among men redeemed by Jesus Christ 
and called out from a life of sin to a life of holiness is the re- 
corded histoiy of the formation of the Church. The Church then 
is the biography of its divinely-raised up, Holy Spirit filled and 
dominated disciples "writ large." 2 

However, the Church is more than biography or history 
alone. It is to be understood only in terms of its genesis as a 
Christian Church, a body of "called out ones." Historically the 
Church is linked with that Hebrew form, called in the Author- 
ized Version of Acts 7:38, the church in the wilderness. The 
church of the Old Testament was the first representative of the 
ecclesia — the called out ones. It was indeed a community of 
the Spirit. Although manifested in natural and social laws, it 
was nevertheless a supernatural organization. As such it was 
the first step to the Christian Church in that it cultivated and 
matured that faith which finally issued in the Kingdom of God. 
It was the community which gave Christ to the world. 

The second step towards the Church was the formation 
by our Lord of the "little flock." Here we stand midway be- 
tween the Mosaic economy and Pentecost. This flock was com- 
posed of two groups — the disciples clustering around John 
the Baptist and the group gathering around Jesus Himself. All 
of these believed that Jesus was the Messiah and formed the 
group in that informal organization who by their love for the 
Master and faith in His words were spiritually qualified to re- 
ceive the gift of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. These 
then were the true nucleus of the Church. 3 

Combining these two areas of consideration we come to 
A Word Concerning the Church and Spirit 

The day of Pentecost is so closely related to the early 
history of the Church that we are inclined to speak of it as the 
birthday of the Church. When we consider that the work of 
the Holy Spirit necessarily demanded an objective economy this 
is true. The day of Pentecost represented that new order of 
spiritual life on earth which, initiated by the advent of Christ, 
was now preserved by the perpetual indwelling- of the Holy 

The Church is thus the creation of the Holy Spirit. It is 
a community of believers who owe their spiritual life from the 
first to last to the Spirit. Apart from the Holy Spirit there 
can be neither Christian nor church. For this reason we declare 
that the Christian faith is not institutional but experimental. 
It is not an ordained class, neither is it merely ordinances and 
sacraments. It is not a fellowship of common interest in serv- 
ice, virtue, or culture. Membership is by spiritual birth alone 
with the roll of membership kept in heaven. The door to this 
Church is Jesus Christ. He knows those that are His and they 
know Him. The church membership list and the Lamb's Book 
of Life are not always identical. "No man can say, Jesus is 
Lord, but in the Holy Spirit," and confession of the Lordship 
of Jesus Christ is the primary condition of membership in His 

The command to tarry in Jerusalem until the enduement 
of power from on high proves that the one essential equipment 
of the Church is the gift of the Holy Spirit. Nothing else will 
avail for the real work of the Church. In fact, the New Testa- 
ment ideal of the Church is intensely spiritual. Thus while the 
Church was instituted by Jesus Christ during His earthly min- 
istry, it was constituted by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on 
the Day of Pentecost. The Church was a Spirit-filled, Spirit- 
empowered, Spirit-guided, Spirit-used body of Christian believ- 
ers. It grew as the Holy Spirit was active in His operations 
upon both individuals and society in that day. 

Further, the New Testament doctrine of the Church is 
centered in its spirituality. The Apostle Paul conceived of the 
Church as a social organism in which the Holy Spirit prevails. 


He writes of the Church as the body of Christ (Romans 12:5; 
I Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 1:23; 4:12; Colossians 1:24; 
2:19). He also calls the Church the bride of Christ (Ephesians 
5 :23, 25 ; II Corinthians 11 :2) . And then concerning admission 
into the Church, he declares, "For by one Spirit are we all bap- 
tized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether 
we be bound or free; and have been all made to drink into one 
Spirit." (I Corinthians 12:13). In a grand final word the 
Apostle John reports the risen Lord as saying, "And the Spirit 
and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. 
And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him 
take the water of life freely." (Revelation 22:17). 

Again the objective of the Church's activity is spiritual 
in its emphasis. Of this spiritual objective Paul writes to the 
Christians in Ephesus and neighboring churches: "There is 
one body, and one Spirit . . . And he gave some, apostles and 
some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and 
teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the 
ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all 
come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son 
of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of 
the fullness of Christ." (Ephesians 4:4, 11-13) . 4 

What we are really saying here is that a clear and de- 
cisive line can be drawn between what we might call "the church 
of authority" and the "church of the Spirit." As Dr. Frank 
Bateman Stanger puts it: 

"The church of authority" is adhered to by those who are primarily 
concerned with a dogmatic expression of Christianity in an institu- 
tion. "The church of authority" is a visible Church, characterized by 
stability, continuity, and legality. "The church of authority" proposes 
the way of conformity as the test of Christian loyalty, and insists upon 
the acceptance of the Christian religion as a governmental scheme. 

* * * * 

"The church of the Spirit" has been described as an inflowing, re- 
freshing, penetrating tide. "The church of the Spirit," in subordin- 
ating opinions to obedience and dogmatics to loyalty, makes the auda- 
cious assertion that often "the church of authority," in its institutional 
procedure, has been tempted to take the wrong road; making central 
what was incidental, setting logic before life, speculation before in- 
spiration, the letter before the Spirit." 5 

Thus in our consideration of the Church and the Spirit 
we declare that for much that is undertaken by the Church the 


Holy Spirit is not needed. Religious services and organized in- 
stitutions do not necessarily constitute a Christian Church and 
such may flourish without the activity of the Holy Spirit in 
their midst. Therefore, we are constrained to reverse the order 
of Church and Spirit and turn to 

A Word Concerning Spirit and Church 

In the course of this presentation, we should now see 
where we are moving. First we stated in brief our definition 
of the Holy Spirit. Then we did the same for the Church. In 
the wording of the third consideration, we deliberately stated 
it "Church and Spirit." And just as deliberately now we state 
it "Spirit and Church." For we have come to the point of ask- 
ing ourselves what happens in the life of that Church when 
the Spirit is in it and works in it. 

First of all, the Church will be a Spirit-controlled Church. 
The work of the Spirit in the Church is set forth in the prom- 
ises of Jesus on the threshold of His ascension, demonstrated in 
the Acts of the Apostles, and amplified in selected sections of 
the New Testament letters. The Gospels record "All that Jesus 
began to do and to teach, until the day in which He was received 
up," and the Acts of the Apostles tell of all that He continued 
to do and to teach after the day in which He was received up. 
This He did through the Holy Spirit who is the active, admin- 
istrative Agent of the glorified Son. The Holy Spirit is the 
Paraclete, the Deputy, the Representative, the Vicar of the 
Ascended Christ. His mission on which He was sent by the 
Father and Son is to glorify Christ by perpetuating His charac- 
ter, establishing His Kingdom and accomplishing His redeem- 
ing purpose in the world. Since the Church is the Body of 
Christ, and the Spirit is the Spirit of Christ, He — the Holy 
Spirit — fills the Body, directs its movements, controls its mem- 
bers, inspires its wisdom, supplies its strength. The Spirit 
guides it into the truth, sanctifies its agents and empowers, 
calls, distributes, controls, guides, inspires, strengthens them 
for witness. Thus the work of the Church is to "minister in 
the Spirit," to speak His message, and transmit His power. 

The Spirit has never abdicated His authority nor will he 
relegate His power. The church that is man-managed instead 
of Spirit-governed is doomed to spiritual failure. A ministry 


that is theologically trained but not Spirit-filled works no mir- 
acles. It is possible to excel in mechanics and fail in dynamic. 
The root-trouble of the present distress is that the Church has 
more faith in the world and her own personal efforts than in 
the power of the Spirit. Things will become no better till we 
get back to the Spirit's realized presence and power. 6 

In a very practical way, then, this brings us to consid- 
eration of a Spirit-Staffed Church. Summarizing the teachings 
of I Corinthians 12 relative to the various offices of the Church, 
we note that the Lord set in the Church: "First Apostles, sec- 
ond prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of heal- 
ings, helps, governments, divers kinds of tongues." (I Cor. 
12:28). In this same chapter in verse 11 the Holy Spirit is 
credited with dispensing gifts severally as He will. The gifts 
are enumerated as "the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, 
faith, healing, working of miracles, prophecy, discerning of 
spirits, divers tongues, interpretation of tongues." 

Now here are two lists, the one pertaining to offices and 
the other to the gifts. Even though the lists are separate and 
distinct there is some evidence of overlapping. And it is evi- 
dent that while the staffing of the Church is the vital concern 
of the Trinity, yet the staffing is accomplished through the 
immediate ministry of the third person of the Trinity, the Holy 
Spirit. Thus the words of the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:11 
and 12 assume importance: "And he gave some to be apostles; 
and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors 
and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work 
of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ." 

We do not conclude from this that a complete formula for 
church organization is supplied in the New Testament. The 
offices mentioned both in the Acts and in the writings of the 
Apostle Paul appear to have been arranged for as various situ- 
ations arose demanding administrative solutions. We will not 
suggest that the Spirit's imprimatur or particular blessing can 
be found on a congregational or presbyterial or episcopal form 
of church government. Rather, from the New Testament per- 
spective we can lay down a principle for the guidance of the 
church at all times: Now as then, whatever the office to be 
filled, it is the Holy Spirit who is immediately and directly con- 


Note with, interest, therefore, that in the early organiza- 
tion of the Church, when the need arose for the selection of 
"members of the staff" — not to preach or to conduct what was 
considered to be the apostolic spiritual ministry — but to pro- 
vide help for timid foreign windows, seven laymen were chosen 
to be deacons. One of the three prerequisites for the filling of 
the office of deacon was the statement that those chosen should 
be "full of the Spirit" (Acts 6:3). This is eloquent testimony 
to the importance of a Spirit-staffed church. 

What is of major import then in the development of con- 
temporary church life? Whatever the administrative policy of 
the church or whatever the technique employed in the selection 
of the spiritual leader of the local church, the all-important 
consideration is that church leaders and pastors should be ap- 
pointed by the Holy Spirit. Spirit-filled pulpits is a continuing 
urgent need of the hour. The winning of men and women to 
Jesus as well as the building up of the body of Christ is depend- 
ent on Spirit-filled pulpits. We urge that if there are any other 
offices belonging to more modern churchly endeavor, even 
though not specifically mentioned in the New Testament, such 
offices must come within the category of the Spirit's staffing. 

The Holy Spirit is at work, ever and always at work. 
He is at work more markedly today through people, ordinary 
and extra-ordinary people. Without the Spirit working through 
the people of the Church, there is no life. 

In elaboration of this Dr. Oswald J. Hoffman in the Re- 
formation Sunday sermon at the Berlin World Congress on 
Evangelism so appropriately said of the Spirit in the Book of 


In this story Luke tells how the Spirit works by toitness, reaching 
out to the people beyond the church through Spirit-filled people in the 
church. It is not a story about church organization, or about church- 
state relations, or even about methods of evangelism. It is the story 
of how people filled with the Holy Spirit used every conceivable method 
to bring the Gospel to people who did not know the Lord Jesus Christ, 
that they might believe, be baptized and be saved. 

It is a story of proclamation and instruction, of how the Spirit of 
God uses the people of God to proclaim the Word of God to bring to 
birth new children of God by the Gospel. 8 


A Word Concerning the Unity of the Spirit 

One of the major issues of the hour in the life of the 
Church is the matter of ecumenics. We are hearing so much 
these days about the ecumenical movement. It is not all good 
and it is not all bad. Let us not fool ourselves — everyone of 
us in some measure or form is interested or involved in some 
way in an ecumenical spirit. The lowliest independent non- 
denominational church that wants to support some sort of mis- 
sion program will have to be incipiently ecumenical about it by 
supporting some faith or interdenominational mission program. 

Some mean by ecumenicalism that we must get every 
Christian to unite with every other Christian, or every church 
to unite with every other church in one great organization. 
Some of us do not share that view. What is profoundly needed, 
however, is for the Church to have what Paul wrote about to the 
Ephesian church (Eph. 4) : "The unity of the Spirit." Union 
is one thing; unity another. 

We do not plead for carnal divisions that too often may 
exist among us ; yes, among us who name the name of Christ and 
claim the life of the Spirit. We do not plead for pettiness and 
bigotry. Rather, we plead for that life of the Spirit where all 
of us in the Church are ready to go to the cross and die to our- 
selves — die not only to our fleshly selves, but even to our ec- 
clesiastical selves. 

Here it is that the Spirit in the Church will work. The 
New Testament is replete with case-examples on which we can 
touch ever so briefly. We note three. 9 

Case number one. In Acts 15:1-35 you have an issue be- 
fore the Jerusalem Council. At stake was not a question of ad- 
ministrative procedure but rather the essence of the Gospel: 
Is the Gospel for Gentiles or only for Jews ; if for the Gentiles 
too, must they conform to Jewish rites and customs? 

Four significant facts stand out in the solution to this 
threatened rupture of the Church which reveal the working of 
the Spirit in keeping the unity of the body. 

First, we note that a group representative of the whole 
church settled the matter. Paul and Barnabas did not start a 
Pauline church at Antioch on lines of freedom for Gentiles, 
thus abandoning a Petrine church at Jerusalem to Judaizing 


tendencies. Second, all parties recognized the sovereignty of the 
Holy Spirit. To the question, "In what way is the Holy Spirit 
actually at work today in the world?" Paul and Barnabas 
brought in field evidence. Thus it was obvious to the Jerusalem 
Council that the Holy Spirit was really at work among the Gen- 
tiles. They had the same spiritual blessings without the Jewish 
rites. So in substance the decision was rendered: It is our 
task to cooperate with the Holy Spirit where and as He is at 
work. Third, the Council listened to the Scriptures. The Apos- 
tle James in his summation quoted the Scriptures. Thus the 
Scriptures are our rule of faith in that they reveal the mind of 
the Spirit. Fourth, as a result of settling the main issue as 
being determined by the Holy Spirit through His Word and ob- 
vious work, everyone was willing to be generous to the feelings 
and even the prejudices of others in matters less important or 
secondary. What then do we learn in all this? We learn the 
graciousness of allowing liberty to others in non-essentials, with 
the assurance that if the Church cooperates with the Holy Spir- 
it such non-essentials will fall off like so many dead leaves in 
due course. 

Case number two is the clear-cut personality clash be- 
tween Paul and Barnabas in Acts 15:36-41. Here we have a 
giant character, Paul, capable of tremendous self-discipline. 
This made him often seem severe in his dealings with others. 
But there is also something towering and magnificent about 
him as a result which makes his effect on history one of the 
greatest, if not the greatest, outside of Jesus Christ. Here we 
have also Barnabas, a "son of consolation." What loving nuan- 
ces there are in his character. And the two disagree over a 
weak, homesick boy, who, despite it all, has great potential. In 
the final sense probably both were wrong and both were right. 
The thing that counts is that they both agreed in the Spirit to 
disagree and to carry on in diverse courses the work of the 

Case number three. We turn to the rebuke by Paul to 
Peter as reported in Galatians 2:11-16. Peter had failed to be 
true to his vision and Paul administered the rebuke. When one 
remembers Peter's later commendation of Paul's letter one has 
a feeling that the work of the Spirit in Peter was to be seen. 

Let us suppose in any of the above cases that the decisions 
effected or the course of action taken would have been the op- 


posite of the one that pertained. What should Paul and Bar- 
nabas have done at Jerusalem? What should Paul have done if 
Peter would not have listened to him? Should they have gone 
along with positions which violated their consciences in order 
to preserve unity, or should they have separated? This is one 
of the most important questions of the hour. 

First, of course, the answer must be Scriptural. An 
answer must never be born either of expediency or compromise. 
We must see the Scriptures in their wholeness and interpret 
them with a sound exegesis. Undoubtedly we will have times 
when separation is called for and becomes a virtue. Again, 
there are also times when to suffer through a bad situation is 
redemptive. This is where we must be shut up to the guidance 
of the Spirit to make application of a general truth which is 
held in tension between the two poles of any given particular 

In conclusion, we summarize by declaring that the re- 
sources of the Church are in "the supply of the Spirit." The 
Holy Spirit is more than a Minister of Consolation. He is in 
reality the Christ to the Church without the limitations of the 
flesh and the material world. The Spirit can reveal what Christ 
could not speak. The Spirit has resources of power greater 
than those Jesus Christ in His incarnation could use, and thus 
the Spirit makes possible greater works than Christ's. To the 
Church He is the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Truth, the Spirit 
of Witness, the Spirit of Conviction, the Spirit of Power, the 
Spirit of Holiness, the Spirit of Life, the Spirit of Adoption, 
the Spirit of Help, the Spirit of Liberty, the Spirit of Wisdom, 
the Spirit of Revelation, the Spirit of Promise, the Spirit of 
Love, the Spirit of Meekness, the Spirit of Glory, and the Spir- 
it of Prophecy. 10 

The Church is called to explore the resources of the Spir- 
it, for the resources of the world of itself alone are futile. And 
the resources of the Church — these are inadequate ! A man- 
managed, world-annexing church can never save the world or 
fulfill the mission of Christ. Let the Church seek the fulness 
of the Spirit — in the Spirit is abundance of wisdom, resources, 
and power! 

i Samuel Chadwick, Humanity and God (New York: Rev ell, 
n. d.), p. 142 f. 


2 J. A. Huffman, The Holy Spirit (Marion, Indiana: The Stand- 
ard Press), Chapter X, see p. 195 f. 

3 H. Orton Wiley, Christian Theology (Kansas City, Missouri: 
Beacon Hill Press), Vol. Ill, pp. 103-111. Also, cf. Ibid., Vol. II, pp. SOS- 

4 Frank Bateman Stanger, "The Church of the Spirit," in Furth- 
er Insights Into Holiness, Kenneth Geiger, compiler, chapter 13. Note par- 
ticularly pp. 214-216. Also, cf. H. Orton Wiley and Paul T. Culbertson, 
Introduction to Christian Theology (Kansas City, Missouri: Beacon Hill 
Press), chapter XX. 

5 Ibid., p. 213 f. 

6 Samuel Chadwick, The Way to Pentecost (Ft. Washington, 
Pennsylvania: Christian Literature Crusade, 1960), p. 12 f. 

7 Huffman, op. cit. pp. 200-211. 

8 Oswald J. Hoffman, "The Work of the Holy Spirit in Acts," 
summarized for Decision from mimeographed article as presented to the 
World Congress on Evangelism, West Berlin, Germany, October 31, 1966. 

9 Cf. Everett Lewis Cattell, The Spirit of Holiness (Grand Rapids, 
Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1963), chapter 6. 

io Chadwick, op. cit., p. 16 f. 


Aspects of Psalm I 
Bruce C. Stark 

BECAUSE they reflect the deepest personal experiences of 
men of all ages, the Psalms are the most widely read and 
most deeply appreciated of all the Old Testament literature. 
They possess a peculiar warmth that is not to be found in such 
generous abundance anywhere else in the canonical Old Testa- 
ment. There are many ponderous questions in reference to the 
Psalter which cannot presently be a part of our concern. Theo- 
ries of the origin and growth of the book are diverse and 
intricate. Classification schemes are myriad, and none are 
totally satisfactory. 

Psalm I offers an interesting object of study for various 
reasons, including the fact that it comes first. We shall com- 
ment on this shortly. The formal analysis of the Psalm is des- 
ignated by Briggs as two antithetical strophes of six tetrameter 
lines each. 1 It should be noted, however, that he considers verse 
three a gloss and does not integrate it into the formal arrange- 
ment noted above. The present writer feels no constraint to 
follow him here. 

There is no designated author and no superscription to 
assist us in reconstructing the historical situation in which the 
poem was composed. Little help is found in the text either, 
since the references are rather general. These facts, however, 
may assist us in our efforts to interpret the psalm, for the very 
lack of knowledge of a specific historical milieu may properly 
encourage us to keep the application of the message broad. 

Psalm 1 bears close connection contextually with Psalm 
2. Some have felt this so strongly that they are willing to be- 


lieve that they are, in fact, one. In pointing out the striking 
similarities between these two psalms, Hengstenberg is most 
helpful, and the reader is referred to his discussion for more 
elaborate treatment. 2 Briefly, however, we may notice here the 
facts that Psalm 2 begins with judgment where Psalm 1 ends, 
and Psalm 1 starts with a benediction parallel to the end of 
Psalm 2. Also, there is a clear parallel between the expression 
in Psalm 1:6"... the way of the ungodly shall perish," and 
the rebels of Psalm 2:12 who are said to " . . . perish in the 
way." We linger only to observe the further point that the 
"meditated" of Psalm 1 :2 is closely analogous to " . . . take 
counsel together" in Psalm 2:2. Delitzsch warns against over- 
doing these parallels. 3 

Many expositors have noted the connection between the 
two ways of the Savior in Mt. 7:13, 14, and the two ways de- 
scribed here in such vivid contrast. It is not demonstrable 
that Jesus was thinking about this passage since the same gen- 
eral phenomenon may be widely observed in the Old Testament 
literature, especially the Psalter and Proverbs; yet it is certain 
that this is the general backdrop of our Lord's thought. The 
charge of Joshua (Josh. 1 :8) is very closely connected with 
the wording here, especially as it bears on the relation of the 
blessed life to meditation in the law of God. The relation 
of Jer. 17:5-8 to Psalm 1 is a problem, but it is fairly certain 
that there is a dependence. 

Along with many others, Calvin expresses the view that 
Psalm 1 was placed at the beginning of the Psalter as a pref- 
ace. 4 It is not too much to suggest that it was composed spe- 
cifically for this purpose, although this is far from certain. 
In its own compressed style, the psalm paints in broad but beau- 
tiful strokes, a picture of human life. Such life either honors 
God and his law, or, by a grim logic of experience, comes to 
despise him. The theme expressed germinally here is reiter- 
ated throughout the book of Psalms and illustrated profusely 
in historical events elsewhere. The truly blessed life is inextri- 
cably connected with honoring God. To really believe this is to 
give our attention to the cultivation of personal piety. This 
is what the psalm is about. 

We offer below an outline of the content of Psalm 1. It 
will be seen to have sermonic overtones. 


Subject: Men Of Destiny 

I. The Man of Blessing vv. 1-3 

A. Negatively Considered 

1. The blessed man refuses to listen to the 
counsel of ungodly men. 

2. The blessed man refuses to make common cause 
with sinners. 

3. The blessed man shuns the settled and 
aggressive despite of scorners. 

B. Positively Considered 

1. The blessed man finds delight in the law 
of the Lord. 

2. The blessed man, as a habit of life, 
meditates in this law. 

3. The blessed man is like a planted tree in a 
well- watered garden. 

a. Fruitful (explicit) 

b. Stable (implicit) 

4. The blessed man is spiritually dynamic in 
prospering his affairs. 

II. The Man of Cursing w. 4-6 

A. The ungodly man is marked by instability like 

B. The ungodly man comes into the judgment of God. 

C. The judgment of God on the ungodly man involves 
excommunication from spiritual privileges. 

Conclusion: God will prosper the righteous man and destroy 
the wicked. True piety should therefore be cul- 

No attempt will be made to offer a full exposition of 
Psalm 1 along the lines we have suggested in the outline. We 
shall concentrate attention on certain key aspects of the psalm. 
One question that has received considerable discussion is wheth- 
er the three verbs in verse one constitute a progression of some 
kind (climax), or whether they simply view the total compass 


of experience. The vast majority of interpreters are convinced 
that there is an escalation here. The intent is to show the in- 
sidiousness of evil. Infection begins gradually, but spreads 
swiftly. Sin does not stampede us into the bottomless pit of 
infidelity at once. The stages are fairly easy, and in this fact 
is implicit warning to those who flirt with evil. It is not neces- 
sary to insist that the climax is reflected in all three parts of 
the parallel clause, (i.e. including words for sinners and de- 
scribing locale) but it is fairly obvious in the verbs. Even so, 
there is reflected in Ins (scorner) a certain extreme situation. 
It indicates an ultimate in depravity. The word lus is com- 
monly found in the book of Proverbs and its usage there makes 
it clear that great perversity is intended. To mock, deride, and 
scorn God, his people, and his word, surely represents some- 
thing veiy radical. 

Looking at the individual segments of the verse, we may 
observe that to walk "... in the counsel of the ungodly," means 
to give attentive ear to earth-bound philosophies. It is not 
necessary to restrict the reference to formal counselling. It 
may very well refer to the subtle and deceitful character of at- 
titudes unthinkingly appropriated. A great deal of harm comes 
from being unguarded in the presence of worldly thinking. 
This is but the beginning of sorrows. Calvin stresses that with- 
drawal from the society of the ungodly is required for any who 
wishes to apply his mind to meditation on the Word of God. 5 
It cannot be properly denied that many are naive and simple- 
minded when it comes to understanding the stratagems of the 
Enemy. Not all can say with Paul that "... we are not ignor- 
ant of his (Satan's) devices." (II Cor. 2:11). Careful atten- 
tion to the verbal sequence here will make us better informed. 
The infectious power of sin cannot be ignored or belittled. 

The expression "... standeth in the way of sinners," 
may be thought of as conscious adoption of worldly attitudes, 
and the conforming of the life to the logical tyranny of una- 
bashed secularism. It is no longer a case of occasional and in- 
termittent wicked influence, but joining rank and making com- 
mon cause with the ungodly. Not an inadvertent inconsistency, 
but a deliberate and reasoned attitude consciously adopted. 
The infatuation of sin makes the person a prisoner to his own 
depraved desires and evil imagination. He soon grows more and 
more settled in his luxury of self-indulgence. 


The last member of the series pictures a man who comes 
at last to a certain obduracy and obstinacy that encourages the 
most vile and blasphemous attacks upon God and his people. 
If we take the Hebrew word as meaning assembly rather than 
seat, it carries the implication of deliberate plotting. Such a 
thought immediately calls up Psalm 2:2 where "... take coun- 
sel together" makes such a conception explicit. Alexander sum- 
marizes the steps of the climax as: (1) occasional conformity; 
(2) fixed association; and (3) established residence. 6 


The expression "blessed" with which the psalm opens 
may be treated here as providing an appropriate transition 
to the positive traits of the godly man discussed below. Schol- 
ars have rightly related this to the beatitudes of our Lord 
in Mt. 5:1 ff. In this connection notice that the translation 
"happy" is definitely not happy. The loss in such a rendering 
is incalculable. It is difficult to avoid the comparatively super- 
ficial connotation of such an expression. Moreover, it seems 
fairly clear that even the familiar "Blessed is the man ..." 
of the AV does less than justice to the Hebrew expression, 
which is an exclamation, a ringing cry of triumph. Much to be 
preferred is "0 the blessedness of . . . ", or, "0 the blessings 
of . . . ", depending on whether one understands the form 
'cohere as a simple numerical plural or a plural of intensity. 
In either case the stress falls on the unique state of the right- 
eous man. Alexander's "How completely happy ..." is com- 
paratively vapid. 7 


The positive elements of the description of the godly 
man are presented in the figure of the tree, a way of speaking 
not unfamiliar to the Old Testament. The palm as a stately 
and noble tree fits well the symbol of spiritual stature. It is 
an attractive emblem of spiritual life and productivity. The 
image of deliberate planting, perhaps in the garden of an estate, 
is the likely thought. The words palge mayim (rivers of wat- 
er) properly refer here to artificially constructed water chan- 
nels rather than to natural streams. Concrete spiritual virtues 
are pictured as fruit, and Jesus applies the same general thought 
to the vine in Jn. 15:1 ff. Fruit comes as a result of a vital, 
living relationship, and the point is clear that spirituality in- 


volves the presence of Christian character. The idea of stabil- 
ity is not explicit, but may be safely inferred. 


The contrast between the godly and the ungodly is 
brought to sharp focus in verses five and six. The idea that 
"... the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment," is not 
meant to deny a resurrection of the wicked dead as some have 
rather strangely supposed, but rather the inability of the sin- 
ner to endure the wrath of God is in view. Expositors disagree 
much about the judgment here referred to, some seeing it as 
eschatological, others as present. In either case the wicked 
man will not endure. His life is disoriented toward God and 
he is therefore afflicted with pernicious instability, (Isa. 57: 
20) . The evil man buckles beneath the pressures of life through 
his inherent weakness, but he is also crushed by the millstone 
of heavenly justice. 

Contrariwise, the righteous not only exult in present 
blessings, but know their future is bright with the assurances 
of God. The Lord "knoweth" their way. Much more than mere 
cognition is in view, for this does not distinguish the righteous 
above the wicked. Briggs sees in this expression a living, ten- 
der and intimate relation. 8 Though the word in certain contexts 
may mean "choose," it probably does not reach that far here. 
It does, however, stand in natural contrast to the perishing of 
the wicked. In this manner the blessedness of true piety is 


1 Charles A. Briggs, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the 
Book of Psalms. Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark 1907, Vol. I, p. 3. 

2 E. W. Hengstenberg, Commentary on the Psalms, Edinburgh: 
T. and T. Clark, 1846, Vol. I, pp. 1-6. 

3 Franz Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the Psalms, T. and T. 
Clark, 1876, Vol. I, p. 82. 

4 John Calvin, Commentary on the Book of Psalms, Grand Rapids: 
Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1963 edition, p. 1. 

nbid, p. 2. 

6 J. A. Alexander, The Psalms, Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board 
of Publication, 1850, Vol. I., p. 2. 


8 Briggs, Op. Cit. p. 7. 


Arminius and Arminianism 
Owen H. Alderfer 

'WO incidents reported by Geoffrey F. Nuttall, London pas- 
tor, in Man's Faith and Freedom state the case for this ar- 
ticle. 1 He reports that an examination required for a higher 
degree in one of the English universities included, among sev- 
eral alternative questions, the topic, "Since Wesley we are all 
Arminians." In the other incident Nuttall reported discussing 
an Arminian symposium in which he was involved with a knowl- 
edgable friend, a man who had authored books on subjects re- 
lated to Methodism. The friend reported: "Do you know, I 
never realized that there was anyone called Arminius!" 

The incidents say at least two things that bear considera- 
tion : First, Arminius and the spirit of Arminianism have had 
enormous bearing upon Christianity in the English speaking 
world. Second, this is true of us whether we have ever heard 
of Arminius or not. And this leads to the concerns of this 
study: Who was James Arminius and what were some of his 
central ideas? Beyond this, what is Arminianism and what are 
its principles and impact? 

James Arminius 

James Arminius began life in a time of considerable reli- 
gious significance. When he was born (1560) John Calvin 
was alive ; the Council of Trent was in session ; Queen Elizabeth 
I was bringing about the Anglican Settlement; Menno Simons 
was leading the Anabaptists; Arminius' native Holland was 
bleeding in religious war. 

By the time Arminius came into his own his homeland 
had largely espoused Calvinism. After study at the new Dutch 
University of Leyden, Arminius studied abroad in Basle and 


Geneva where he became thoroughly oriented in Calvinistic 
thinking. Returning home he became popular as a preacher 
in Amsterdam. When he was called upon to answer attacks 
upon supralapsarian views of election Arminius questioned the 
very views he was to defend. Called to a chair of divinity at 
Leyden he aired views which favored human freedom and ques- 
tioned the current positions on divine decrees. 

From 1603 until his death in 1609 Arminius was engaged 
in controversy with Calvinistic leaders of the Reformed Church. 
Feeling that his contemporaries in the ministry and the theo- 
logical chairs of the universities distorted the Scriptures and 
the Fathers Arminius sought to present what he thought was 
the Biblical view of the nature of God, the nature of man, and 
the way of salvation. 

The nature of God. Arminius judged that current views 
which saw God as decreeing the Fall and the damnation of 
some men from all eternity made God the author of sin. Irenic 
in a time when peace-loving attitudes were uncommon, Armin- 
ius framed his thought in Calvinistic patterns and differed 
with his opponents only at points where he felt he must. He 
held that God ordained to save and damn certain particular 
persons; however, "The decree has its foundation in the fore- 
knowledge of God, by which he knew from all eternity those 
individuals who would through his preventing grace, believe, 
and through his subsequent grace would persevere, . . . " 2 There 
are absolute decrees, but these are three and evangelical; viz., 
(1) "... to appoint his Son . . . for a Mediator, Redeemer, 
Savior, Priest, and King who might destroy sin by his own 
death, ... by his obedience . . . obtain salvation . . . "; (2) 
" ... to receive into favor those who repent and believe . . .; 
but to leave in sin, and under wrath, all impenitent persons 
. . ."; (3) ". . . to administer in a sufficient and efficacious 
manner the means which were necessary for repentance and 
faith; . . ." 3 He asserted, "... As believers alone are saved, 
so only believers are predestinated to salvation. But the Scrip- 
tures know no Election, by which God precisely and absolutely 
has determined to save any one without having first considered 
him as a believer." 4 It must be allowed that the sovereign God 
permits evil. Indeed, Arminius asserted, "... Even all actions 
whatever, concerning evil that can possibly be devised or in- 
vented, may be attributed to Divine Providence — employing 


solely one caution, 'not to conclude from the concession that 
God is the cause of sin.' " 5 

The nature of man. In dealing with the question of 
human nature Arminius' concern was for free will. He insisted 
upon the Absolute in but one quarter: "I am desirous, that we 
should . . . contend FOR THE NECESSITY OF GOD ALONE, 
... and that we should contend for the CONTINGENCY OF 
and necessary; He has decreed and provided salvation — but 
conditionally. When He employs his creatures in the adminis- 
tration of his Providence He ". . . conducts all things in such 
a manner that ... he does not take away from them their na- 
ture, natural properties or the use of them, but allows them to 
perform and complete their own proper motions." 7 God's crea- 
tures, including man, are free to be themselves. No less than 
Calvin, Arminius held that original sin offended God and result- 
ed in punishment. This sin is not peculiar to first man, how- 
ever ; it is common to the entire race so that all are under wrath 
thereby. 8 The powers of free will ". . . are not only debilitated 
and useless unless they be assisted by grace, but [they have] no 
powers whatever except such as are excited by Divine grace." 9 
"Preventing grace" comes to the rescue so that man is capable 
of responding to the call of God as he will. 10 Human freedom is 
hereby genuine. "All unregenerate persons have freedom of 
will, and a capability of resisting the Holy Spirit, of rejecting 
the proffered grace of God, . . . these things they can actually 
do, without any difference of the elect and of the rcpr abate. ' nx 

Arminius was careful to point out that he was not Pelag- 
ian in his views, an error with which he had been charged. He 
declared that in his own abilities man is helpless ; sufficiency of 
grace must be ascribed to him by the Holy Spirit, ". . .and 
such sufficiency may be ascribed . . . , as to keep at the greatest 
possible distance from Pelegianism." 12 Man is fallen, the victim 
of original sin, but through prevenient grace, even in his state 
of guilt, he has genuine freedom and the power to resist grace 
and choose for against God. 

Soteriology. Having broken from the logic-tight system 
of Calvinism at the point of predestination, Arminius likewise 
rejected a limited atonement. Interestingly, he turned to an- 
tiquity, quoting Prosper of Aquitain to indicate and support his 
view: " 'With respect both to the magnitude and potency of the 


price, and with respect to the one general cause of mankind, the 
blood of Christ is the redemption of the whole world.' " 13 
Though the atonement is universal in its provisions, not all will 
share in it. He wrote, "The accidental result of vocation, and 
that which is not of itself intended by God, is the rejection of 
the word of grace, . . . the resistance offered to the Holy Spirit." 
The end of this is the judgment of God. 14 

In the soteriological process justification and regenera- 
tion are logically and temporally related for Arminius. Sinners 
are justified — accounted righteous solely by the obedience of 
Christ, he held, and wrote, "But since God imputes the right- 
eousness of Christ to none except believers, I conclude that . . . 
it may be well and properly said, To a man who believes, Faith 
is imputed for righteousness through grace, . . ," 15 Regenera- 
tion is closely associated with justification. Arminius declared: 
". . . For Christ becomes ours by faith, and we are ingrafted 
into Christ, . . . that we may draw from him the vivifying pow- 
er of the Holy Spirit, . . ." Justification expresses in a regen- 
erate life in which "... a man . . . has a mind freed from the 
darkness and vanity of the world, and illuminated with the 
true and saving knowledge of Christ, . . . " 16 Such experience 
in the life of the believer leads to a clear assurance of salva- 
tion, for, "Since God promises eternal life to all who believe in 
Christ, it is impossible for him who believes, and who knows 
that he believes, to doubt of his own salvation, . . ."' 7 

Sanctif ication is the desired end in the living of the Chris- 
tian life. By grace God purifies man who is a sinner, and yet 
a believer and leads him in deeper knowledge and purer life. 
Arminius wrote, "This sanctification is not completed in a sin- 
gle moment; but sin, ... is weakened more and more by daily 
losses, . . ." ]8 Arminius doubted that man can ever in this 
life be free from tension in this regard as he wrote, ". . . Man 
is not fully and perfectly regenerate so long as he is in the pres- 
ent life." This, however, must be understood, ". . . as relating 
not to the essence and essential parts of regeneration itself, but 
to the degree and measure of the quantity." 19 Further, Armin- 
ius had serious questions about the possibility of anyone keep- 
ing the law perfectly; whatever of progress a man makes in 
this direction must be credited to grace. 20 In spite of these 
ideas Arminius insisted that justification — though not a re- 
sult of work — will be productive of good works. "Faith, and 


faith only, (though there is no faith alone without works,) is 
imputed for righteousness," he wrote. 21 


Arminius was a prophetic figure. This is true not so 
much in the specific views he declared as in the spirit he rep- 
resented. Irenic, tolerant, and open-minded he was the har- 
binger of a new climate that was coming to birth in the Western 
world, a spirit that would find expression in both secular and 
religious thought. 

After Arminius died (1609) friends who followed his 
thinking drew up a statement of beliefs, "The Remonstrance" 
of 1610, in hope of bringing about peace in the church. These 
summarized Arminius' thought. 22 The statements achieved an 
end opposite that desired. They became the core of a theological 
battle that ended with the Synod of Dort, 1618-1619. In this 
synod a strongly Calvinistic confession was adopted and the 
Arminians were condemned. Those rejected established a de- 
nomination which came to be known as the Remonstrant Broth- 
erhood. 23 

Arminianism, though rejected at first, was shortly to 
gain acceptance in other places; however, the directions it took 
and the ideas associated with the movement were often far re- 
moved from the views of Arminius himself. Within less than a 
centuiy the Anglican Church was reflecting Arminian views 
in the Books of Homilies, though the Thirty-Nine Articles were 
firmly Calvinistic in tone. 24 Primarily through these homilies 
Arminian thought was mediated to John Wesley, an ardent 
champion of Arminian thought. 25 Much the same movement 
could be traced elsewhere. 

While there were those such as Wesley who represented 
a fairly "pure" Arminian thought, Arminianism in due time 
came to be associated with ideas far removed from those of Ar- 
minius. An enquiring attitude and a conciliatory spirit had 
been marks of the man; now, enemies of Arminius came to 
associate every movement of free thinking and irenic disposition 
with Arminianism. Indeed, some of the Remonstrants did move 
from earlier positions to heterodox views in Christology and 
anthropology; however, "Arminian" became a pejorative term 


which encompassed a host of questionable positions of the En- 
lightenment period. 

An example of this development is seen in the times of 
Jonathan Edwards. As pastor at Northampton in 1734 he saw 
in New England a spreading "Arminianism," by which he 
meant trust in human ability and a libertarianism which led 
to self-confidence. His preaching of justification by faith alone 
and against Arminian principles was a key factor in the revival 
that led to the Great Awakening in New England. 

The climate of opinion was, however, against Edwards 
and in favor of "Arminianism." Even by Edwards' time, for 
the most part, Arminianism was a prevailing mood. Western 
man was coming to have confidence in his own abilities. The 
Arminianism which Edwards feared developed and expanded 
in the century and one-half after his time. By the twentieth 
century men had forgotten Arminius, but the spirit and views 
he represented, as conveyed by those called Arminians, were 
a part of the mental furniture of the majority of men in the 
Western world. 

1 Geoffrey F. Nuttall, "The Influence of Arminianism in England," 
in Gerald O. McCulloh, ed., Man's Faith and Freedom, the Theological In- 
fluence of Jacobus Arminius. (New York: Abingdon Press, 1962), p. 46. 

ZArminius, Declaration of Sentiments, I, 5, in The Writings of 
James Arminius, 3 vols., tr. by James Nichols and W. R. Bagnall (Grand 
Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1956), Vol. I, p. 250. 

ilbid., p. 247. 

•♦Arminius, Nine Questions, I; Writings, I, p. 380. 

5 Arminius, Declaration of Sentiments, II; Writings, I, pp. 251, 252. 

6 Arminius, Against the Thirty-one Articles, VI; Writings, I, pp. 
293 ff. 

Wp. Cit., VII, pp. 296 f. 

8 Arminius, Public Disputations, VII; Writings, I, pp. 485, 486. 

*Op. Cit., XI; pp. 523, 531. 

10 Arminius, Against the Thirty-One Articles, IV, 1; Writings, I, 
pp. 287, 288. 

i 'Arminius, Certain Articles to be Diligently Examined and 
Weighed; Writings, II, pp. 496, 497. 

I2 Arminius, Against the Thirty-one Articles, VIII; Writings, I, 

13 Op. at, XII; pp. 316-317. 



nArminius, Public Disputations, XVI; Writings, I, pp. 570-574. 

i5Arminius, Declaration of Sentiments, IX; Writings, I, pp. 263, 264. 
I6 Arminius, Dissertation on Romans VII; Writings, II, pp. 225- 

i 7 Arminius, Nine Questions, VII; Writings, I, pp. 384, 385. 

isArminius, Private Disputations, XLIX, "On the Sanctification 
of Man;" Writings, II, pp. 119-121. 

i^Arminius, Dissertation on Romans VII; Writings, II, p. 247. 

20Arminius, Declaration of Sentiments, VII; Writings, II, pp. 255, 


ziArminius, Letter to Hippolytus a Collibus, V; Writings, II, p. 473. 

2 2 Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom (New York: Harper 
and Brothers, 1919), Vol. Ill, pp. 545-549. 

23Lambertus Jacobus van Hoik, "From Arminius to Arminianism 
in Dutch Theology," in Gerald O. McCulloh, op. cit., pp. 28-29. 

2*See especially Articles X, "Free-Will," and XVII, "Of Predestin- 
ation and Election." 

2 5John Wesley, "On God's Vineyard," in Sermons on Several Oc- 
casions (New York: Waugh and T. Mason, 1836), Vol. II, p. 389. Here 
Wesley declares his dependence on the Homilies ". . . in setting their judg- 
ment on the grand point of justification by faith, ..." 




and Theological 


Ashland Theological Seminary 

Ashland, Ohio 

Spring 1969 



Winona Lake, Indiana 46590 

Ashland Theological Seminary 
Ashland, Ohio 


Spring, 1969 


Introduction to the Current Issue 

The Editor 

The Genius of Brethrenism 
Albert T. Ronk, D. D. 

Responses to "The Genius of Brethrenism" 

1. Theological Education and the Genius of Brethrenism 

Joseph R. Shultz, D. R. E. - - - - 11 

2. Christian Education and the Genius of Brethrenism 

Frederick T. Burkey, M. R. E. - - - 17 

3. Pastoral Ministry and the Genius of Brethrenism 

Richard E. Allison, B. D. - - - - 23 

Some Classic Views of the Church 

Owen H. Alderfer, Ph. D. 28 

Editorial Committee: Owen H. Alderfer, editor 

Bruce C. Stark 
Joseph R. Shultz, Dean 

Vol. II No. 1 

Published by Ashland Theological Seminary, Ashland, Ohio 44805 

Introduction to the Current Issue 

THE CURRENT issue of the Ashland Theological Bulletin is 
devoted primarily to consideration of the nature of the 
church. Brethrenism and the Brethren Church receive special 
attention in this number. 

The focal article is "The Genius of Brethrenism" by Dr. 
Albert T. Ronk. The statements which immediately follow are in 
response to Dr. Ronk's views. They reflect a variety of thought 
including appreciation, reaction, and difference in an effort to 
clarify and apply the genius of Brethrenism to various aspects 
of ministry to the contemporary world. It is hoped that these 
presentations will bring thoughtful comment from people who 
are wrestling with the issues involved. 

The concern for the nature of the church is developed 
from a broader perspective in a consideration of four approaches 
which might be called "classic views of the church." 

Owen H. Alderfer, editor 

Contributors to this Issue 

Owen H. Alderfer is Professor of Church History at A. T. S. 

Richard E. Allison, an alumnus of A. T. S., serves as pastor of 
the Jefferson Brethren Church, Goshen, Indiana. 

Frederick T. Burkey serves the Brethren Church as Director of 
Christian Education. He is an alumnus of A. T. S. and of the School of 
Religious Education at The Southern Baptist Seminary at Louisville, 

Albert T. Ronk is Brethren Church Historian and Archivist. He 
has recently published The History of the Brethren Church, 

Joseph R. Shultz is Dean of Ashland Theological Seminary and 
Professor of Christian Education at the Seminary. 

The Genius of Brethrenism 
Albert T. Ronk 

THE CONCEPTUAL use of Brethrenism in this theme-title 
does not imply disparagement as do some words suffixed 
with -ism. The basic word carries connotations which alone in- 
vest it with dignity. Moreover, the title words in combination are 
so germane to the theme that the subject is introduced forthwith. 
This analysis sets itself to disclose the characteristics of Breth- 
renism as represented in the Brethren movement originating in 
the German Palatinate in 1708. 

Defining it in general, Brethrenism is a characteristic of 
the true Church from its beginning. It issues from the life and 
teachings of Jesus. Centuries of time and multitudes of heretical 
movements have come and gone but the stream of truth, and the 
holy brotherhood in Christ — true brotherhood — flow on uner- 
ringly toward the unknown seas of eternity. The problem of 
each individual and movement is to be in the stream of both the 
Truth and the Christian Brotherhood. 

A strong indication of some characteristics the Brethren- 
ism of the Schwarzenau Brethren assumed may be gathered 
from the time and place of their origin. The beginning of the 
eighteenth century in Germany found the religious atmosphere 
under a strong challenge of pietistic activity. The developing 
pietism was the result of thilip Jacob Spener's call for reform 
in the state churches. His plea was one for renewal of spiritual 
life and personal piety. His appeal was to those who wanted to 
be Christians with all earnestness. August Herman Francke, 
somewhat younger but a co-worker with Spener, had experienced 
a sharp regeneration in conversion. His appeal was to those who 
would wrestle in repentance to a clear break with the tvorld. 

It may be denied that Alexander Mack and his little band 
at Schwarzenau were actually pietists. It is certain that the or- 
ganization effected in 1708 was not a conventicle of the pietistic 

movement. Yet, they were separatists, and were surrounded with 
such strong pietistic teaching and activity that they expressed 
pietistic ideas in their meager writings yet extant. Alexander 
Mack wrote: 

True believers and lovers of the Lord Jesus always have their eye 
singly and strictly directed to their Lord and Master in all things ; they 
wish to follow and obey him in all commands he has given them, and 
showed them with his own example; and thus they learn in their sim- 
plicity to understand the mind of the Master, even in the very small- 
est matters. 1 

When asked about the testimony of the Holy Scriptures 
and the leading of the Spirit of God, he replied : 

"He that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the 
churches" (Rev. 3:22) . . . . Thus when a person reads externally the 
Holy Scriptures and is a believer, whose ears are open, he hears what 
the Lord Jesus in his doctrine enjoins; he hears what the apostles 
require in writings, and by this inward hearing he is urged on to ob- 
serve a true obedience also inwardly. 2 

Questioned about one's immediate calling as to the source 
of his convictions "to establish a church," and to those who would 
affiliate with it, Mack answered: 

The immediate calling indeed consists in this, that a man feels in- 
wardly and powerfully assured by the Spirit of God, and is not con- 
cerned about it whether men believe it or not.3 

The "immediate calling," which an accusing finger pointed to as 
"establishing a new church," was clarified by Mack when he 

We have indeed no new church, nor any new laws; but in simplicity 
and, true faith, we desire to remain in the old church which Christ 
instituted through his blood, and to follow the commandment which 
was from the beginning. * 

A strong element in the developing new believing group 
of Brethren was their growing consciousness of the fecundity of 
freedom. As separatists from the established churches of Ger- 
many — from the creeds, confessions, and constraints — they had 
freedom, but their freedom was to them a bondage, both their 
freedom in Christ and their freedom from the former ties. They 
said, "We have been saved from gross sins by the mighty hand 
of God;" but in the same breath they declared, "Yet we could 
not enter the house of God, nor break the bread in communion of 
Jesus and his members." 

Freedom as an abstract concept is useful only as a watch- 
word or battle cry. In concrete application it is bi-directional 

with negative and positive principles. There is freedom from the 
things that pall; freedom for the conceptual good. Freedom in 
Christ brought to the Brethren a bondage of love to community. 
Freedom in possession could only find benediction in brother- 
hood. Brotherhood becomes the field of action wherein to explore 
and mature their sense of freedom. 

The fellowship effected at Schwarzenau was simple with 
only those regulations the adherents felt were required to be 
able to administer the sacraments and identify themselves. Even 
then the few rules adopted for identify on marriage, work, the 
ban, and avoidance, were the source of internal troubles and 
continued so for a century and a half. In fact, the disturbances 
among the Brethren throughout their history have largely stem- 
med from excessive rules or attempts to establish them. 

Examination of the covenant record of the Brethren 
formation in 1708, as written by Alexander Mack, Jr., impresses 
one with the simplicity of the constitutional action. He said, 
"Eight persons covenanted and united together into the covenant 
of the cross to form a church of Christian believers." 5 Those 
who engaged in the covenant had become disillusioned with the 
church image of their former affiliation. They searched for 
words to express their concept of the people of God. They spoke 
of the faithful as a household, and Christ as the Householder. 
The Lord's Church in their thinking was a fellowship and was 
not entered by joining, but by observing certain rites and by ex- 
periencing relationship in the community of the faithful. The 
chronicler said that they were moved with the "mystery of water- 
baptism" by immersion and considered it a "door into the 
church." 6 They felt that participation in apostolic baptism made 
them a part of "the old church which Christ instituted." They 
did not consider they had joined it, but by their obedient faith 
they had identified with it. 

It needs to be said that, according to their own statement, 
the covenanting Brethren did not believe in baptismal regenera- 
tion. Their word was that "believers do not look to the power of 
water in baptism, but rather they look to the power of the Word 
which has commanded it." 7 

The adhesive element in the solidarity of Brethrenism is 
the spirit of brotherhood. The looseness in use of the expression 
brotherhood by various secular groups does not mar the concept 
in its spiritual sense, for it springs from revelation. Speaking of 

His own, the Master said, "All ye are brethren." The fathers 
manifest their spirit by addressing each other as "Brother" or 
"Sister," and with salutations of the holy kiss, by sacrifical love 
in ministering to a brother's need, by unity of faith and order, 
and by communal living. When the course of true Christian love 
flows into and among the individuals of a fellowship, by-laws 
become mere statements of facts. The rule of love is transcen- 
dent; the loss of it is deadly. 

The times of victory in manifestations of the Brethrenism 
this treatise seeks to magnify are the times of literal application 
of its principles, precepts, and tenets. They are the times of 
spiritual growth and outreach in witness. Times of defeat are 
characterized by absence of rapport and harmony in interperson- 
al relations. When fervency gives way to formalism and formal- 
ism deteriorates to tolerance brotherhood wanes and Brethren- 
ism approaches the vanishing point. 

The teaching and preaching and example of those first 
Brethren flowed through the generations since and have main- 
tained in greater or less degree to the present. Testimonies scat- 
tered through the years document this conclusion. A generation 
after the fact Alexander Mack, Jr., stated that the fathers "have 
now all departed in peace;" and, there are "churches who bear 
the same testimony here in America . . ." 8 

Advancing to the year 1781 we read where a gentle- 
man from outside the Brethren circle made a most revealing 
comment about the Brethren way of life. His assessment is apro- 
pos to this analysis of the Brethren genius : 

Such Christians I have never seen as they are; so averse are they 
to all sin, and to many things that other Christians esteem lawful, 
that they not only refuse to swear, go to war, etc., but are so afraid 
of doing anything contrary to the commandments of Christ that no 
temptation would prevail upon them ever to sue any person at law, 
for either name, character, estate, or debt, be it ever so just. 

They are industrious, sober, temperate, kind, charitable people; 
envying not the great, nor despising the mean. They read much, they 
sing and pray much, they are constant attendants upon the worship 
of God. Their dwelling houses are all houses of prayer. They walk in 
the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless, both in 
public and in private. 9 

Testimony in assessment of Brethrenism as made by 
others would not be complete without hearing the deeply con- 
sidered word of J. Allen Miller. Dr. Miller, having come from a 
family of Brethren tradition, was in position to make a factual 

appraisal of the subject. At editorial invitation in 1915, Miller 
wrote : 

In seeking to characterize what I like to call the spirit and genius 
of Brethrenism, I always find myself at a loss for words. In the first 
place this is true because it is a LIFE that I am trying to depict. 
And what makes this all the more difficult at least for me, is the fact 
that it is not the life of a particular man or woman but the life of a 
community that I am trying to describe. Yes, it is a life. To appreciate 
it one must really enter into it. I am not now speaking of the narrow 
idiosyncrasies and oft-times ignorant and mistaken notions or customs, 
local or general, which stifled progress and led to intolerance. But I 
am thinking of those magnificant traits of Christian conduct, the un- 
faltering devotion to convictions, the honesty and integrity of charac- 
ter, and loyalty to the Church and the Word of God which silently 
but powerfully influenced the whole community. I am thinking of the 
quiet and peaceful life, for the most part rural, which flowed on as 
a deep stream of spiritual righteousness. The unobstructive and un- 
demonstrative life of the fathers still lives. Absence of emotional out- 
bursts was no evidence of the lack of deep and genuine spiritual feel- 
ing. The tear dimmed eye and the trembling hand, the silence of a 
spirit moved within a shaking body spoke loudly of the Spirit's work. 
I am thinking too of the simple and the sincere fraternal fellowship 
that always characterized our people. 10 

The insights of the above observers as they contemplated the 
LIFE of those who had assimilated the doctrines of Breth- 
renism, are delightfully revealing. However, it must be pointed 
out that more than "assimilating doctriine" is essential to pro- 
duce the kind of LIFE that Dr. Miller pictured. There was — 
and is — the working of the grace of God in the believer both in 
faith and practice. The LIFE is not a creed, or a confession, or 
a group membership; it is, in the words of Jesus, "I in them, 
and thou in me, that they may be perfected in one ; . . ." (John 
17:23) Phrasing from Dr. Miller: "One must really enter 
into it to appreciate it" and to feel its enveloping power. The 
power that envelops, transforms. The genius of this Brethrenism 
is not in the doctrines and practices of the Brethren Church 
as tradition, but as revealed truth spiritually energized in a 
consciousness of believing, obeying, and witnessing. 

What, then, is the LIFE of this concern? It is, indeed, 
most difficult to define, describe, or depict. In its origin it is 
a gift, a changed condition of life in renewal by the touch of 
God — a gift of life where there was death, and freely given from 
God to man. In its essence, it is invisible and intangible. In its 
dynamism of time and space it becomes active in substance — 
material and personal. Life as a spiritual gift functions through 

personality. In its singular aspect, it is personal, individual, 
solitary; in its plurality life becomes communal, specifically 
and generally. 

The life Dr. Miller held in reference was both individual 
and communal as the fruit of the pietistic faith translated into 
life by the people who called themselves Brethren. The faith, 
held from the beginning in the compulsive movement of a 
brotherhood, became the genius of the Brethrenism that emerges 
in life; it emerges, that is, if the individual wills his life after 
the principles, precepts and tenets of the faith. The tone and 
degree of success in the ivilling is contingent upon consonance 
with the Spirit of God. 

Constant change as a law of life need not be stated here 
except in context. Every moving of the Spirit struggles to ex- 
press itself in the individual personality. Personalization of the 
principles and precepts of a faith produces a life of stability 
and service. There is creativity in believing — introjective crea- 
tivity. Spiritual moving and good intentions will wither and die 
if they are not expressed objectively. The Brethren refusal to 
take an oath is more than an abstract principle; it is a practice 
recognized by law. Non-conformity to the world is more difficult 
of execution and must allow decisions of conscience as to what 
is in harmony with being "transformed by the renewing of the 
mind." In fact, faith as declared is free from dogma. The prin- 
ciples, precepts, and tenets were adopted by common agreement 
and have been perpetuated in the same way because of strong 
convictions that the teachings of the New Testament are to be 
accepted literally and practiced lifewise. 

This Brethrenism accepts written Word (New Testament) 
as an accurate report of Truth and the Living Word revealed 
and makes it the focus of its theology. Faithfulness to its 
theology, its doctrine, its sacramental rites are evidences of an 
energy of continuity. This basic fact has been recognized 
throughout the past decades. 

To succeed a movement must have an objective, a clear 
purpose for being, a mission. A definite and stated mission 
brings it to birth and gives it vigor. Changes that come with 
passing years may indicate new methods of application and even 
threaten the basic and original concept. Even though it be pushed 
into obscurity by neglect the original purpose of mission in the 
genius of the movement must remain so as to have vitality. The 
mission of this Brethrenism was to recall apostolic Christianity 


in faith and order. It was the mission that sustained the Breth- 
ren fathers through the years and produced the kind of lives 
referred to by both the Reverend Mr. Winchester and Dr. Miller. 
Any failure of today's Brethrenism to produce outstanding 
fidelity to its historic position in its living product must be 
charged to a retreat of its leadership from the original and stated 
mission. It seems apropos to this analysis to relate the special 
items of Brethren mission : 

They opposed all force in things Christian, taking oaths, member- 
ship in oath-bound societies, divorce and remarriage except on one 
Scriptural ground, engaging in carnal warfare and going to law. 
They taught careful self-examination for believers, non-conformity 
to the world and encouraged Scriptural love, Spirit-directed faith and 
personal obedience to principles of religious living. They practiced 
baptism by triune immersion of penitent believers for remission of 
sins, feetwashing, eating of the Lord's Supper (agape), the commun- 
ion of bread and wine, the Christian salutation of the holy kiss, 
proper appearance in worship, and anointing with oil for healing with 
laying on of hands. 1 ! 

These items of faith and practice, added to general evan- 
gelical doctrine, were considered recalled from primitive Chris- 
tianity to be perpetuated. The considered Brethren mission to 
practice and teach apostolic doctrines of the sacraments was 
their only justification for creating a new and distinctive church 
fellowship. It is a conviction of this writer that the only justif- 
ication for the continuance of this church fellowship is to prac- 
tice and teach the same distinctives as the founding fathers did. 
Affirmation of this settled view of mission in the genius of 
Brethrenism in this present time and place raises perplexing 
questions of relevance and methodology. This study cannot de- 
velop the substance of either. 

The present posture of ecumenicity in the Brethren 
Church merits a simple statement. Brethren ecumenicity is a 
child conceived by the exigencies of the present hour and of 
recent birth. Too long it has rested in unperturbed isolationism. 
An outstanding effect was the late flowering of a missionary 
program. Therefore, its koinonia was selfish and sectarian. It 
is evident now that the babe must not tarry in swaddling cloths 
but hasten to active youth status under the guidance of its 
mothering genius. Ecumenicity is the word, not ecumenism. 
The one denontes koinonia; the other, integration. 

1 Alexander Mack, Rites and Ordinances (Ashland, Ohio: Brethren 
Publishing- House, 1939), p. 33. 

2 Ibid., p. 54. 

3 Ibid., p. 80. 
^ Ibid., p. 91. 

5 76id., p. 14. 

6 76id. 

7 Ibid., p. 23. 

8 76id., p. 17. 

9 Elhanen Winchester, quoted in The Brethren in Colonial 
America, Donald F. Durnbaugh, editor (Elgin, 111.: The Brethren Press, 
—1967), p. 324. 

io Brethren Evangelist, XXXVII: 32, Aug. 18, 1915, p. 3. 
n Frank Gehman, "Our Brethren Purpose," a leaflet, p. 2. 
(Deposited in the Gehman File, Archives, Ashland Theological Seminary.) 


Responses to "The Genius of Brethrenism" 

1. Theological Education and The Genius 

of Brethrenism 

Joseph R. Shultz 

TT IS a privilege and pleasure to respond to Dr. Ronk's article 
"The Genius of Brethrenism." The supreme value of this re- 
search and writing is in the fact that it is the work of a man 
who has both lived it since the beginning of the modern move- 
ment and still loves it. There is inherent value in his seeking to 
define the life, mind, and mission of The Brethren Church in 
an ecumenical age when all established doctrines and principles 
are being questioned. It is most relevant for even those who are 
in full accord with the Church to excavate and examine the 
foundations in order to reaffirm the faith and determine the 
nature of mission for the twenty-first century. 

Before I seek to develop the implication of this article 
for theological education, I would want to examine certain 
emphases in the article. First of all, it would be necessary to 
qualify the entire approach of placing Brethrenism in the con- 
text of Pietism. In recent years many good articles have been 
written concerning the origins of Brethrenism in relation to 
Pietism, the Reformed, and Anabaptism. The weight of evidence 
would force us to do no less than consider that Brethrenism at 
best was eclectic and did not emanate from one pure stream. 
The very fact that it organized itself into a church is a strong 
indication that Anabaptism had a significant influence among 
its early members. It is undoubtedly true that Brethrenism does 
have a strong element of Pietism. However, there is also abun- 
dant evidence even today that Brethrenism was also influenced 
by many aspects in the movement of the Radical Reformation. 

Secondly, Dr. Ronk's statement concerning the mission of 
the church is far too restrictive. The statement, "The considered 


Brethren mission to practice and teach apostolic doctrines of the 
sacraments was the only justification for creating a new and 
distinctive church fellowship," is not documented. Further, "It 
is the conviction of this writer that the only justification for 
the continuance of this church fellowship is to practice and teach 
the same clistinctives as the founding fathers did" is far too re- 
strictive and tends to sacerdotalism and religious legalism. 

The reverse side of these statements necessarily reads that 
other churches are not practicing the "Apostolic doctrines of 
the sacraments." This is most difficult to demonstrate from 
either a traditional or exegetical view point. The church histor- 
ian Dr. Donald Durnbaugh clearly demonstrates that one of the 
primary principles for the origin of the Believers' Church was 
the "fall of the Church." The Christian bodies formed out of 
Radical Protestantism were convinced of the total lack of dis- 
cipleship and quality of life within Christendom. 1 But to imply 
that The Brethren Church holds the "sola" apostolic doctrine of 
sacrament and that this is the reason for continued existence 
is unfounded. The reason for existence, even within Christen- 
dom, is total Gospel mission. 

Now the implications for theological education arising 
out of the article are contained in the phrase, "this Brethrenism 
accepts the written word (New Testament) as an accurate re- 
port of truth and the living word revealed, and makes it the 
focus of its theology." Pietism, not Lutheranism or Calvinism, 
coined the term "Biblical theology." Spener in Pia Desideria 2 
uses the term "Biblical theology" and later created the antithesis 
of dogmatic theology and scholastic theology. The fact that this 
term was invented within the stream of Pietism at the time of 
the working out of the Radical Reformation is of vital impor- 
tance to all Reformation history as well as to Brethren his- 
tory. As Gerhard Ebling suggests, one would have thought that 
Lutheranism or Calvinism would have coined the term since the 
basis of the Reformation was "sola scriptura" in contrast to 
the concept of "tradition" of the Roman Catholic Church. 3 The 
term "Biblical theology" was coined to distinguish a type of 
Christian life and theology based on the straightforward ap- 
proach to Scripture in contrast to theology based on presuppo- 
sitions of philosophy and tradition. The term was coined to de- 
clare a simple faith based on the commonly accepted truths in 
Scripture, and upon the principle of the priesthood of all be- 
lievers within Radical Protestantism. This was in contrast to 


the Reformation doctrines and orthodox dogmatics which had 
become completely immersed in scholastic form. Ebeling also 
writes, "'Biblical theology is the slogan of a programme of theo- 
logical reform which directs its criticism neither at the content 
of Orthodox dogmatics nor at its methodological form as syste- 
matic theology, but only at certain accretions, namely, at the 
fact that, as Spener says, there has been 'much introduced into 
theology which is alien, useless and savors more of the wis- 
dom of the world,' 'presumptuous subtleties in matters where 
we ought not to be wise above the scriptures.'" 4 

In the volume Types of Modern Theology, H. R. Mackin- 
tosh refers to a similar aversion at another point in Church 
history: "Barth holds, not unjustly as I think, that the all but 
openly professed purpose of much contemporary theology has 
been to satisfy the human intelligence — its religious, moral, and 
even aesthetic assumptions — rather than to understand, obey, 
and set forth the Word of God. Roman and Protestant alike have 
found the supreme criterion of preaching, not in Scripture, but 
in the mind of the living Church. . . They can become wholly 
oblivious of the truth that the Church and its mind stand perpet- 
ually under the authority and judgment of God's Word." 5 The 
inference from Mackintosh and his quotation of Barth reveal 
the force behind the term Biblical theology as initiated and con- 
tinued in the movement of the Believers Church — and the Breth- 
ren Church. 

Therefore, a primary implication for theological educa- 
tion for Brethrenism as it emanates from Biblical theology is 
that serious exegetical study of Scripture must be effected at 
the core of the curriculum. Since the Pietistic element of Breth- 
renism rejects both tradition and creeds, it is essential to realize 
the "authority" of Scripture. To leave this would result in a 
radical individualism or social and religious liberalism. Granted, 
this position does not resolve all textual problems and hermeneu- 
tical questions, but it does preserve a sympathetic context where- 
by Scripture and doctrine problems can be approached without 
negativism and outright rejection. Brethrenism by this very 
nature seeks a commitment of "trust" in the part of both pro- 
fessor and preacher. An attitude of faith in the inspiration and 
authority of Scripture is the matrix for Christian teaching and 
worship. In the ultimate sense, Brethrenism does not rely upon 
an orthodox dogma of "inspiration" but upon the self vindica- 
tion, the inherent authority of Scripture through the Holy Spirit. 


A second implication (logically, not chronologically) 
for theological education for Brethrenism stemming from Bibli- 
cal theology is that each generation must study its church doc- 
trine in order to reaffirm or reform it. The genius in Biblical 
theology is that Scripture exegesis never becomes normative but 
always remains historical. This is most adequately illustrated 
in the Brethren's position of never adopting an ecumenical creed 
and holding the motto: "The Bible, the whole Bible, and noth- 
ing but the Bible." Creeds were rejected not because Brethren 
rejected the cardinal doctrines of Christianity but because they 
believed "new light" might come. Dr. Durnbaugh writes in Breth- 
ren Life and Thought, "¥/ithin the context of the 'inner word' 
one can see the persistent Brethren concern for remaining open 
for new understanding of the mind of Christ. These, of course, 
are to be expected within the frame work of the 'Outer Word' 
or the Scripture." 6 

The very essence of Pietism presupposes a personal living 
approach to Scripture and precludes abstract theology. Scripture 
in the heart of Brethrenism is "God speaking." Brethren are 
not timid to admit to the inexplicable, and acknowledge the 
"mystery" in the revelation of God in Christ. The theology of 
paradox of D. M. Baillie illustrates a certain mind in Brethren- 
ism. An example is, "The Incarnation presents us indeed with 
the supreme paradox, and I do not believe that we can ever elim- 
inate from it the element of paradox without losing the Incar- 
nation itself." 7 

There are times when this Brethren nontheological atti- 
tude is interpreted as anti-intellectual or irrational. However, 
Brethrenism would answer that faith itself is a valid theological 
method, more viable than the dogmatic orthodoxy. 

Positing the concept of Biblical Theology Brethrenism 
affects not only the position of Scripture, but also the formation 
of Christian theology. The early writings of the Brethren every- 
where give evidence to the importance of the "inner Word" as 
well as the "outer Word." The study of Church history also 
teaches that this is not unique with Brethren but was used by 
Spener, Menno, and even Calvin. For all of these Reformation 
and Radical Reformation bodies the illumination of the Holy 
Spirit was prerequisite to the proper reading and interpretation 
of Scripture. 

Therefore, it is imperative to understand that Brethren- 
ism formed Christian theology out of life, rather than life out of 


Christian theology. The experience of new life and discipleship 
was the ground for forming Christian belief. Mack writes, "Son. 
But I have heard it asserted that all sects appeal to Scripture, 
and hence one could not maintain his faith by Scripture? Father. 
Whosoever says this, because all sects appeal to Scripture, that 
therefore a true believer should not do the same, such must nec- 
essarily be a miserably ignorant person. For it is to a believer 
a strong support of his faith to know that all sects acknowledge 
the holy scripture as divine, and appeal to it, though they do 
not believe it (scripturally) . . . true believers have learned of 
their Lord and Master more and better wisdom." 8 From this 
it could be said that "life" not "logic" was the final testimony 
to eternal truth. This is not to say that the theology of Brethren- 
ism was illogical but to assert the limitations of the best of rea- 
son and the self vindication of the new life in Christ. Brethren- 
ism was always willing to accept "mystery" at the edge of reason. 
To Brethrenism viable theology is the living doctrine in the life 
of the "true" believer. This whole theological concept harmonizes 
with Brethren emphasis on experience, discipleship, and the 
"agape of Koinonia." The genuine Christian fellowship of the 
Brethren was — and is — the most important "doctrine" and is 
prerequisite to all other cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith. 

The early concept of Biblical theology also contained the 
sense of historical truth. By this it is meant that Christian the- 
ology is subject to further "light." It is opened and never be- 
comes so normative that it cannot be changed. Again this is the 
reason for non-creedalism in Brethrenism. The New Testament 
was their only "creed," and its interpretation can never be 

The Brethren were sensitive enough to realize that when 
any generation forms a creed (or statement of faith) which 
necessarily is a living thing out of their experience, it cannot 
be made normative for the next generation who have not neces- 
sarily had the identical experiences. Faith and testimony to 
Christian experience are the primary items which can be willed 
from one Christian generation to the next — besides the New 
Testament. Therefore, the theological implication is that schools 
of theology in the tradition of Biblical theology must always 
seek for and insist upon "life" as well as the "words." The scrip- 
ture, "But grow in grace, and in knowledge of our Lord and 
Savior, Jesus Christ" is explicit in placing "grace" first in the 
process of theological education. 


Undoubtedly there are other theological implications 
which one could respond to in the article "The Genius of 
Brethrenism." The ones presented seem to be basic and most 
vital to other responses. It is hoped that this article would invite 
"response to the response." And if this response is not sufficient, 
it is because of the insufficiency of the author, not the subject. 
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with us always. 

1 Donald F. Durnbaugh, The Believers' Church (New York, Mac- 
millan Co. 1968), p. 212. 

2 Philip Jacob Spener, Pia Desideria, ed. Riut Aland, in Kleine 
Texte, fiu Varlesungen and Ubungen, No. 170, Berlin, 1940, pp. 25f. 

3 Gerhard Ebeling, Word and Faith, (Philadelphia, Fortress 
Press, 1963) pp. 79-97. 

4 Ibid, p. 84. 

5 Hugh Ross Mackintosh, Types of Modern Theology, (New York, 
Scribners, n.d., pref. 1937) pp. 269-70. 

6 Donald F. Durnbaugh, "Brethren and The Authority of the 
Scriptures," Brethren Life and Thought, (Oak Brook, Illinois, Brethren 
Journal Association), Vol. XIII, September, 1968, No. 3, p. 174. 

7 D. M. Baillie, God Was In Christ, (London, Faber & Faber, 
1961) p. 106. 

8 Alexander Mack, Rites and Ordinances, (Ashland, Ohio, A New 
English Translation With Memoirs of the Author, 1939). p. 51. 


2. Christian Education and The Genius 

of Brethrenism 

Frederick T. Burkey 

FROM TIME to time it is helpful to re-examine both doctrine 
and distinctive practice as they relate to the church's 
tradition and its contemporary mission. If The Brethren Church 
is to survive the vigorous challenges of this secular age, it must 
establish its identity and clearly perceive its mission. Therefore, 
studies in denominational history and thought are prerequisite 
to the intelligent determination of the content of the church's 
message and the shape of its ministry. Because Brethren must 
participate in constructive discussions aimed at producing a 
more effective ministry in a rapidly changing world, I welcome 
the opportunity to respond to Dr. Albert T. Ronk's article, "The 
Genius of Brethrenism." 

In his treatment of the "genius" of Brethrenism, Dr. 
Ronk has attempted to delineate those characteristic beliefs and 
practices which distinguish the Christian heritage of The 
Brethren Church from that of other Protestant bodies. Generally, 
however, these beliefs and practices correspond closely with the 
recognized traits of the Anabaptists and the various bodies which 
are identified with the Believers' Church tradition. 1 None of 
these "distinctives" really sets the German Baptist Brethren 
apart from other evangelical groups. 

I. THE GENIUS OF BRETHRENISM: Christian Brotherhood 
in Quest of Truth 

Such records as we now possess indicate that the founders 
of the German Baptist Brethren movement were a quiet, serious, 
evangelical people whose religious ambition was to be completely 
obedient to the teachings of the New Testament. Profoundly 
influenced by their Bible studies and by the decadence of the 
state churches in Germany, they felt unable to accept either the 
rigid creedal statements or the ritualistic worship offered by 
established religious bodies. 2 


With the Bible as their guide, they set out to recover the 
faith and order of the New Testament. As they approached this 
task, they did so in a spirit of Christian brotherhood and love, 
accepting one another as new creatures in Christ while 
maintaining an attitude of openess to the leading of the Spirit 
in the interpretation of the Scriptures. It was their obedient 
search for new understanding in a spirit of agape such as could 
not be generated by human will or effort, but by God only, that 
made the Brethren a distinctive group in the eyes of their 
contemporaries. Herein is found the "genius" of Brethrenism. 


While Dr. Ronk does, in some measure, stress "brother- 
hood" as an important aspect of Brethrenism, this concept seems 
to be gradually forced into the background by his emphasis on 
rites and ordinances. For instance, he implies that brotherhood 
is achieved by "observing certain rites" first and then "experi- 
encing relationship in the community of the faithful." Thus we 
infer that the "genius" of the movement lies primarily in the 
observation of the "certain rites" rather than in the atmosphere 
of Christian brotherhood and spirit of openess so clearly associ- 
ated with true Brethrenism. Dr. Ronk concludes his article on 
the same note by stating that the sole justification for the con- 
tinuation of this movement is limited to the practice and teaching 
of the "apostolic doctrines of the sacraments." He thus assumes 
both that the founders possessed full apostolic understanding of 
these doctrines and that no further light on these matters can 
be derived from a study of the New Testament. 

While his approach presents the traditional Brethren 
view of its own "genius," it does seem to obscure those qualities 
which made Brethrenism unique. This definition of the Breth- 
ren "genius" had its genesis within months after the initial 
baptism at Schwarzenau in the late summer or fall of 1708. The 
hostile state^church power structure and the presence of the 
constantly debating Anabaptistic and pietistic groups forced the 
Brethren to develop an apologetic to meet the challenges of that 

Because the moral and ethical standards of the established 
churches of era were questionable at best, they were scarcely in 
a position to criticize the life style of the Brethren. 3 Consequent- 


ly, their only recourse was to attack the modes of observing the 
ordinances developed by the Brethren. 4 The historical record 
of the Church bears numerous entries describing vociferous 
controversies focusing more, unfortunately, on the merits of 
"trine immersion" or the re-immersion of new members than on 
the real issues: believers' immersion, Christian brotherhood, 
and receptivity to new understandings derived from a serious 
study of the Word. 

Over the years, these heated disputes, some with those 
of other religious persuasion and others among Brethren, accom- 
plished something which the founding fathers greatly feared 
and strenuously opposed in the established churches of their 
day. For, the Brethren became so preoccupied with defending 
their particular modes of administering the ordinances that the 
original attitude of openness of new "light" in the context of 
Christian brotherhood and mutual acceptance was lost. These 
distinctive modes soon became, and to some extent continue to 
be thought of as tests of fellowship and fidelity rather than ex- 
pressions of faith and obedience. 5 Somehow the original Brethren 
mission to "recall apostolic Christianity in faith and order" 
seems to have been reduced to a kind of narrow ecclesiasticism 
based on an eighteenth century apologetic. 


Evangelical Christian education is an orderly, ongoing 
process which is designed to lead all men to a knowledge and 
acceptance of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; to guide them 
in performing the worshipping, witnessing, teaching, and minis- 
tering responsibilities of the church; and to direct them, in a 
fellowship of love, toward spiritual maturity . Ever flexible, 
always probing for deeper understanding in every facet of the 
life and work of the believer, evangelical Christian education 
possesses the ingredients necessary for maintaining a spirit of 
openness and vitality within the brotherhood. Whenever, 
throughout the history of Brethrenism, its "genius" has been 
most evident, there has been an effective educational program. 

Prior to the intellectual dark ages of Brethrenism 
(roughly 1776-1882) the German Baptist Brethren were deeply 
committed to the study of the scriptures. Dr. Martin C. Brum- 
baugh records that "There is evidence to justify the claim that 


the Germantown congregation had a Sabbath school before 
1738. " 6 Later, "In 1744, Christopher Saur printed a collection of 
381 tickets, upon each one of which is a scripture quotation and 
a stanza of religious poetry by Gerhard Tersteegen. These were 
evidently used in the Brethren's Sunday school." 7 

Unfortunately, with the destruction of the Saur press in 
Philadelphia during the Revolutionary War, the stream of Ger- 
man language religious literature nearly evaporated. Conse- 
quently, the Brethren sought to maintain their identity, not by 
pursuing a common search for truth, but in isolation from the 
rest of the world. Very soon they were withdrawn "into a shell 
of illiteracy and distinctive dress." 8 This produced a kind of 
provincialism which found expression in the strenuous opposi- 
tion of many influential church leaders to the establishment of 
Sunday schools and high schools which they claimed were "not 
in harmony with the teachings of Christ and the apostles, nor 
with the ancient view of the church." 9 

Honest inquiry was greeted with unbelievable suspicion. 
One group petitioned the annual conference "to advise Brethren 
Quinter and Kurtz and H. R. Holsinger to publish nothing in 
their periodicals that disputes the practice of the precepts and 
ordinances of the gospel, as handed down to us by Christ and 
the apostles, through and by the forefathers of the church." 10 
The conference of 1869 agreed and warned that publication of 
controversial articles "will subject a brother to the counsel of 
the church." 11 

Reacting to the intellectual rigor mortis of nineteenth 
century Brethrenism, Henry R. Holsinger led the progressives in 
a concerted attempt to recover the true "genius" of the Church. 
Quite naturally, one of the prominent elements of this renewal 
movement was the development of a Sunday school program. 12 

Christian education unbound by tradition and conduct in 
a spirit of openness and honest searching played an integral 
role in the recovery of the "genius" of Brethrenism and in the 
subsequent growth of The Brethren Church in the years 
immediately following the 1882 schism. 

Today, when many learned men are proclaiming that 
"God is Dead" and that the Sunday school is a relic of the past, 
we are witnessing a growing sentiment for church renewal. Such 
titles as "The Taste of New Wine," "New Life in the Church," 
"Call to Commitment," "The Integrity of Church Membership," 


and "Nine Roads to Renewal" are flooding the religious litera- 
ture market. People from diverse Christian backgrounds are 
searching for — and in some cases finding — renewal within the 
church. Almost without exception, the prominent renewalists 
stress the importance of educating the laity for responsible 
participation in the mission of the ministry of the church. 

Keith Miller, author of "Taste of New Wine," calls for 
"a new kind of honesty" in Sunday school classes. He says of 
his own church, "We just had an unspoken agreement not to 
press the truth — when it seemed that the truth might hurt the 
leaders or someone else's feelings — or really rock the boat." 13 

This new kind of honesty in life, Bible study, and in 
prayer "inevitably drives a man, sooner or later, out of the pri- 
vacy of his soul, beyond the circle of his little group of Christian 
friends and across the barriers between social, racial and eco- 
nomic strata to find the wholeness, the real closeness of Christ 
in that involvement with the lives of His lost and groping chil- 
dren whoever and wherever they may be." 14 THIS IS RE- 
NEWAL! This kind of renewal is desperately needed in Breth- 
ren Churches today. 

The Brethren Church can be renewed, it "genius" can be 
restored through Christian education, but in so doing, many 
cherished traditions must be carefully scrutinized. Such scrutiny 
is never without agony (or opposition) but if The Brethren 
Church is a Believers' Church, evangelical and open in life and 
witness, there is nothing to fear. For this scrutinizing process 
will be carried out within the body of believers, in a spirit of 
Christian charity, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit of God. 

As we discipline ourselves to a Christian education 
characterized by a "willingness to receive further improvement" 
which was typical of Colonial Brethrenism, 15 churchmen will 
discover that they possess something of infinitely more value to 
share with the world than certain distinctive modal approaches 
to the Biblical ordinances. This "something" that transcends 
traditional modalism is embodied in the Christian's relationship 
with the "infinite, all-wise, all-powerful, all-loving God who has 
revealed himself by means natural and supernatural in creation, 
in the nature of man, in the history of Israel and in the Church, 
in the pages of Holy Scripture, in the incarnation of God in 
Christ, and in the heart of the believer by the Gospel." 16 


This daily walk with God is the goal of Christian educa- 
tion which, if realized, will perpetuate the "genius of Brethren- 
ism" and provide the basis for renewal of the Church. 

i See: Franklin H. Littell, The Origins Of Sectarian Protes- 
tantism (New York: Macmillan, 1964), p. 82f., and Donald F. Durn- 
baugh. The Believers' Church (New York: Macmillan, 1968), p. 32f. 

2 See: Donald F. Durnbaugh, comp., tr., European Origins Of 
The Brethren (Elgin, 111.: Brethren Press, 1958), p. 324. 

3 Ibid., see pp. 27-30. 

4 Ibid., p. 124ff. 

5 See: A Manual Of Procedure For The Brethren Church, p. 9, 
Section E. 

6 Martin G. Brumbaugh, A History Of The Brethren (Elgin, 111.: 
Brethren Publishing House, 1907), p. 180. 

7 Ibid., p. 181. 

8 Albert T. Ronk, History Of The Brethren Church (Ashland, O.: 
Brethren Publishing Co., 1968), p. 14. 

9 Henry R. Holsinger, History Of The Tunkers And The 
Brethren Church (Oakland, Calif.: Pacific Press, 1901), p. 437. 

io Ibid., p. 420. 

1 1 Ibid., p. 423. 

12 Ronk, op. cit., p. 89. 

13 Keith Miller, Taste Of New Wine (Waco, Texas: Word Books, 
1965), p. 21. 

14 Ibid., p. 64. 

1 5 See: Albert T. Ronk. "A Philosophy of Brethren Church 
History," Ashland Theological Bulletin, Vol. I, No. 1 (Spring 1968), p. 5. 

16 Bernard Ramm, Protestant Christian Evidences (Chicago: 
Moody Press, 1953), p. 33. 


3. Pastoral Ministry and the Genius 
of Brethrenism 
Richard E. Allison 

THE "genius" of any sectarian group within the Christian 
context is to be found in its contribution to Christianity as 
a whole. The early Christians were not defenders of what had 
been in Old Testament Judaism. Instead they built on this past 
and pushed forward under the direction of the Holy Spirit. A 
part of their genius was their freedom to Holy Spirit guidance. 
They had not become hardened in ther cultic practices to the 
point where they were no longer available for pioneering under 
the direction of the Holy Spirit. 

The Holy Spirit used the instrument of the early church 
to do a new thing. However, it must be remembered that what 
eventuated had its roots in the past. The actual happening was 
a natural fruition of what had already taken place. In other 
words, it was a part of the continuing activity of the Spirit and 
not an abrogation of all that had preceded. 

The early church was faithful to the message that was 
the natural extension of the Old Testament and included what 
God was continuing to do in and through Jesus Christ. While 
the roots are to be found in the old, the early church came into 
being through a response to the new. 

A group of eight under the direction of Alexander Mack 
in 1708 founded a new group within the circumference of Chris- 
tianity. They did not claim to be "the Church" but desired to be 
a part of the old Church instituted by Christ. The manner in 
which they proceeded was that of reconstitutionism. Such a pro- 
cess can easily lead to nostalgia over the past. Then one's judg- 
ment becomes impaired and he makes glowing statements which 
have no basis in fact but which exist only in imagination about 


This often happens as one views Pietism from the position 
of the present clay. This is to miss the point of Pietism. Pietism 
sought to establish true piety. It was not nostalgic. It was cog- 
nizant of its own matrix. It was not defensive in its approach, 
but offensive. While not being a conventicle of Pietism, the early 
Brethren developed a style of life that was marked by the pietis- 
tic movement. Emphasis was placed on regeneration, a vigorous 
spiritual life and personal piety. 

In the process of reconstituting the church, one returns 
to the early church and its history in Acts. There one finds no 
definition of the church. Instead, word pictures of it in action 
define its mission. 

The first concept encountered in Acts 2:41 ff. is that em- 
bodied in the word kerygma. Kerygma refers to the message, the 
proclamation, the core. An inductive study of Peter's message 
at Pentecost with the other messages in Acts (3:11-26; 4:5-12; 
7; 8:26-40; 10:34-43; 13:13-31) yields the following core : 

a. Jesus is the fulfillment of that spoken in the Old Tes- 

b. He vindicated himself through miracles signs and 

c. He died by crucifixion. 

d. He was resurrected from death and the grave. 

e. He was exalted. 

f. The call to repentance. 

g. The warning of judgment. 

The kerygma provided a link to the past. By the kerygma 
continuity is maintained with what God has been doing down 
through history. This is the area where faithfulness is demand- 
ed. Brethren emphasis at this point is apparent from such often 
quoted phrases as "The New Testament is our guide to faith 
and practice." "No creed but the New Testament." 

The church was and is to be a proclaiming community. 
Its message is to be proclaimed with power and simplicity. Its 
members are to live lives of discipleship clearly reflecting the 
message. All of this has implications for Christian outreach. A 
depersonalized society is looking for a sure and certain word 
from the Lord, a message tested by the ages, a message that is 
lived and not merely verbalized. 


The second concept found in Acts 2:41 ff. is summed up 
in the word ecclesia. One of the earliest and most persistent 
themes in the Old Testament is that of Israel as a "chosen" peo- 
ple. From the time of the Exodus, the Hebrew people developed 
an awareness of themselves as an especially chosen community. 

This same idea is found in the New Testament but applies 
to the church. Ecclesia is the term chosen to describe the Chris- 
tian Community. From Pentecost on, the followers of Jesus came 
to a self-conscious awareness of themselves as a unique com- 
munity. Those who had been with Christ, who had come to a new 
relationship with God through Him now became conscious of 
their new relationship with one another. This was not man's idea. 
It was the creation of God. First God chose a nation, but that na- 
tion out of pride, prejudice and blindness refused to be a blessing 
to other nations. Then God turned to a chosen people, taken not 
from one nation but consisting of the believers of many nations, 
the Church. The ecclesia is a community made up of persons who 
have been called forth by Him. 

The concept of ecclesia added to kerygma tends to temper 
the individualism engendered by the call to repentance in the 
latter. This same individualism is encouraged by the emphasis 
placed on regeneration by the Pietests. 

The ecclesia is the community of called out ones, or, in 
other words, those who have responded positively to the procla- 
mation. For Brethren, the emphesis is on community as opposed 
individualism. With regards to outreach it implies that invitation 
is to community instead of individual salvation. The latter is 
not denied but the former is given preeminence. 

The third concept found in Acts 2:41 ff. is an anticipated 
extension of the former ones. It describes the nature and life of 
the Christian community. Koinonia is often translated "fellow- 
ship" but this word fails to convey the life-sharing activities of 
the community of faith. Many of the superficial activities of the 
organized church are brought to mind by the word fellowship. 
However, as Paul points out in I Corinthians 12:26, the church 
is a body of believers that are so closly joined that if "one suffers, 
all suffer; or if one is honored all rejoice together". 

A major factor in the genuine atmosphere for outreach 
is fellowship vertically and horizontally. Fellowship provides in- 


ward stability which enables Christians to perform their mission. 
It undergirds and assists individuals in performing their mission 
with boldness and compassion. In this fellowship the new believer 
can grow in grace and function properly as a child of God. Koino- 
nia is a fellowship of love, acceptance and forgiveness. 

The Brethren are a fellowship people. Liturgical leanings 
find little support from Brethren tradition. Our strength is found 
in that we have learned to bare our souls before God and each 
other. A world that has been conditioned to live behind a mask 
is willing to take a second look at a fellowship of love, acceptance 
and forgiveness. A world that has lost its personhood suddenly 
becomes alive in an atmosphere of love, acceptance and forgive- 

A fourth concept important to understanding the church 
and its genius from the New Testament standpoint is found in 
the term diakonia. The church does not exist for itself. It exists 
to loose itself in service. Just as the head of the church "came 
not to be served: He came to serve and to give His life to re- 
deem many people," (Mark 10 :45 TEV) so the church was meant 
to lose itself in mission or else become a museum for antiquated 
piety. The church does not exist to perpetuate itself. The separ- 
ated life dare not become and end in itself. This produces a ghetto 
religion, the self-righteousness of the pharisee, the exclusiveness 
of the saved. Diakonia involves the community of faith in the 
concerns of the world. Through service the church wins the right 
to proclaim the Good News. And through service the Good News 
becomes understandable to all levels of society. 

Pietism injected a lethargic, majesterial church with a 
shot of mission serum. Orphanages were opened, schools were 
built, missionary societies began operation under the instigation 
of pietistic forces. Brethren have always been a practical people, 
more inclined to serve than to refine a theology. And today we 
live in a world that is more impressed with work than words. 
Problems of racism, violence, war, and poverty confront us and 
await the application of Christian love. The world in which we 
live is crying for a revelation of God's love and the application 
of God's love in terms it can understand. This is a call to dia- 
konia. This service is not simply something the church does, but 
something the church is. 

What then is the genius of the Brethren Church? 


1. Its openess to the leading of the Spirit. 

2. Its acknowledgement of Scriptural authority. 

3. Its brotherly style of life. 

4. Its willingness to spend itself in service. 

What is the contribution that Brethren can make to the 
Christian scene? Some of the earliest practices of the Brethren 
commend themselves today as the ones most likely to prove ade- 
quate for the day in which we live. 

A society bombarded by claims and counter claims from 
mass media longs to hear a word spoken with authority by the 
Creator of all things. A populace of joiners yearns for the know- 
ledge that they are becoming God's people for eternity. The lonely 
crowd needs fellowship. A bleeding, hungry, impoverished world 
longs for compassionate understanding and help. 


Some Classic Views of the Church 

Owen H. Alderfer 

TO THOSE who have devoted time to thought and study 
about the nature of the church it is readily evident that 
a number of views have developed and peristed over the years. 
While giving specific attention to the Brethren views of the 
church in this issue of the Bulletin, it seems appropriate that 
other views be indicated which have existed over long periods of 
time in widespread movements. 

The concern of this study is the essential nature of the 
church — the church as the church. One's view of what the church 
is will, indeed, affect his view of everything to which the church 
is related. If we can discover some "classic views" of the church, 
it is assumed that it can readily be seen how the various views 
will work out in the respective relationships. 

The approach to this study is historical and theological: 
It will attempt to locate in time views of the church that have 
lasted across the years and have influenced the church in vari- 
ous geographic sections or theological streams. The study will 
attempt, furthermore, to trace out the thought of the several 
views, suggesting directions in which the respective views may 
lead insofar as the church in its relationships is concerned. The 
study takes up classic views beginning with the most ancient 
views, the Eastern and the Western, leading to the Eastern Orth- 
odox and the Roman Catholic. From there the study moves to 
two Protestant views, the Lutheran and the Reformed. 

The Eastern View Op The Church: The Mystical View 

By "Eastern view" of the church this study refers to a 
general attitude which grew up in Christianity east of the 
Adriatic, in Greek speaking parts of Christianity during the 
first seven Christian centuries. It is not easy to delineate a 


specific "Eastern view" of the church because of the mood char- 
acteristic of the developing church in that part of Christianity. 
This attitude did not lend itself of offical systematization and 
legal codes which defined the church and governed its develop- 
ment. The Eastern church is characterized more by a spirit 
than any clear abiding formulation of a doctrine of the church. 
Still, it is appropriate to try to grasp that spirit as it indicates a 
view of the church. 

In the early centuries of Christianity, characterizing 
features began to develop within the church in the eastern Medi- 
terranian which set it apart from the church in the West. The 
East, productive of a host of great Christian thinkers and 
writers, walked in the spirit of the Greek heritage to which it 
was indebted. The speculation of the philosopher, the mystical 
quality of Platonism, the imagery of the poet and dramatist, the 
individualism of the early democracy united with a trust in per- 
sons more than in laws — all these contributed to the attitude of 
Christian writers of the East. Eastern names — Origen, Atha- 
nasius, the Cappadocian Fathers, Cyril of Alexandra, and Eu- 
sebius of Caesarea, to name a few — are associated with the meta- 
physical speculation which led to the profound theological issues 
coming to focus in the ecumenical councils. 

Preoccupation with the Logos, often interpreted in Neo- 
platonic modes, and concern with salvation emphasizing immor- 
tality became the central themes of Eastern thought. Athanasius' 
writing summarizes the thinking of the East in these areas in 
a few sentences in Of the Incarnation: 

He was made man that we might be made God and He manifested 
Himself by a body that we might receive the idea of the unseen Father ; 
and He endured the insolence of men that we might inherit immor- 
tality, i 

Athanasius is saying that the manifesting of the Logos is a fact, 
but more: it is a lesson, a symbol, a sacrament. Christ is seen 
as being born in us, dwelling in us, permeating us with spiritual 
life. To such concerns the Eastern church devoted its attention ; 
it endeavored to fathom the mysteries of the world above. The 
practical focus of the church — if practical it may be called — 
came to be the realization and enjoyment of these mysteries in 
personal experience through reason and liturgy. 

To this point the study has dealt with philosophical back- 
grounds and theological concerns of the Eastern church rather 


than with an Eastern view of the church. In such a setting, how- 
ever, and in the absence of an explicated ecclesiology, the East- 
ern view of the church is to be discovered. M. J. Congar dis- 
cusses the development of a view of the church in the East and 
suggests reasons why greater development did not occur: 

The thought of Eastern ecclesiology from the first envisages in the 
mystery of the church that which it encompasses of the divine real- 
ities rather than the earthly aspects and the human implications. It 
focuses upon the inner reality of the unity in faith and^ love rather 
than the concrete demands of the ecclesiastical communion. One ob- 
serves the relatively weak development of the ecclesiology of the Greek 
Fathers; the truth is that these have dwelt in a large measure upon 
Christology and even more upon pneumatology. They see the church 
in Christ and in the Holy Spirit rather than in its ecclesiastical being 
as such. 2 

Arising from these ideas in Eastern Christianity is what 
may be called a mystical view of the church. John Oman sees 
this as ". . . the idea of the Church as primarily a mysterious 
hierurgical saving institution." 3 The church is a means whereby 
the ideas and experiences of the divine realms — the real world — 
are communicated to men. Indeed, as the future concerns of the 
Eastern church would show, there must be concerns for truth — 
orthodoxy, the law of God, and clerical orders, but these are of 
value only as they contribute to experiencing the relation to 
Christ and the attainment of immortality through Him. 

Such a view of the church resulted in the development of 
an extensive liturgy as an aid to the attainment of spiritual 
reality. Congar in his work After Nine Hundred Years shows 
that the Eastern church across the years has placed great value 
on "a line of descent from celestial realities to the midst of the 
sensible world," so that there developed "a rather sumptuous 
liturgy, imbued with Holy Mysteries and the idea of 'Heaven on 
Earth.' It was a church essentially sacramental, a church of 
prayer with less attention to the exigencies of its militant and 
its itinerant state." 4 

Father Congar has implied some of the results which 
tend to flow from a mystical view of the church: Elaborate 
liturgy developed, the incarnating of divine ideas to raise men's 
minds to God. The life of devotion, including the elevation of 
asceticism, found stress. Individualism expressed within the 
framework of the church resulted, minimizing the role of cor- 
porate worship. The same mood carried over into the structures 


of the church : priestly and episcopal organization never attain- 
ed an established unity for the whole church. The church de- 
veloped into a number of communities belonging to various 
states. Out of this situation, in many cases, the church became 
subordinated to the state. 

From this brief study of the Eastern church, it may be 
generalized that a mystical view of the church tends toward a 
focus upon divine realities. It stresses personal experience of 
the divine provisions in opening to the individual various de- 
grees of depth in realization. It lends itself to individualism — 
concern for personal experience unrelated to other persons. It 
holds the danger of unrelatedness to the present world. 

The Western View Of The Church: 
The Hierarchial View 

As described above, the eastern part of the church devel- 
oped its own peculiar thought and patterns leading to the struc- 
ture known as the Eastern Orthodox branch of Christendom. 
So also, the western part of the church developed according to 
its thought and patterns into the Roman Catholic branch of 
Christendom, greatly influencing subsequent developments in all 
Western Christianity. Because this is a part of our more im- 
mediate heritage than the Eastern, this story is a more familiar 
one to us. 

The Western view of the church is more easily traced out 
than the Eastern because a progression of Western Fathers 
wrote explicitly on the nature of the church. Here theological 
and practical overtones are present ; as the vision of the church 
developed — often out of a current controversy — new statements 
were presented to clarify and crystallize thinking on the church. 
Later writers built upon their predecessors; sometimes they in- 
vested the earlier writings with new meanings. Ideas from sev- 
eral of the Western Fathers should be noted to show progress in 
thought concerning the church. 

Irenaeus (died c. 200) gathers up the main second cen- 
tury ideas of the church and presents an outline of developing 
views. In Against Heresies he wrote, "Where the Church is, 
there is the Spirit of God ; and where the Spirit of God is, there 
is the Church and all grace; . . ." 5 The church is the sole repos- 
itory of truth ; this is the case because it holds the apostolic faith 


and the apostolic writings. In a passage later to be much used 
and abused, he illustrated his case by the Roman church, the 
church founded by Peter and Paul. It represents Christendom in 
miniature. 6 Others, such as Tertullian (died c. 220), reflect simi- 
lar ideas, stressing the soleness of the church and the deposit 
of faith guaranteed by an unbroken succession of bishops. 

In Cyprian of Carthage (died 258) the Western view of 
the church advances notably. Writing at the time of the Nova- 
tionist schism Cyprian stressed the unity of the church and noted 
that this was a unity maintained through the bishops who stand 
in the place of the apostles. 7 The church is founded on the bish- 
ops of which Peter is the first; it is "united and held together 
by the glue of the mutual cohesion of the bishops." 8 Reasoning 
from here he argues that one "cannot have God for his father 
who has not the Church for his mother." There is no salvation 
outside the church represented by the bishops in proper succes- 
sion; furthermore, rebellion against the bishop is rebellion 
against God. 9 Here is a practical legal approach to the doctrine 
of the church. Clearly inherent in Cyprian's doctrine is much 
that will harden into medievel and later Catholic views of the 

The Western church is indebted more to St. Augustine of 
Hippo (died 430) than to any other single person for the devel- 
opment of its doctrine of the church. Forced to deal with these 
issues by the Donatist controversy, Augustine wrote extensively 
on the nature of the church. He accepted the teachings relative 
to the church current in his time: the church is the bride of 
Christ, the mother of Christians ; there is no salvation apart from 
it; the church is equated with the universal Catholic Church 
with its hierarchy and sacraments, and its center is at Rome. 
Augustine's unique contributions are in three areas: (1) His 
view of the mystical relationship of the church to Christ — the 
body to the Head. (2) His conception that the church's unity 
follows logically as a fellowship of love; schism, therefore, is 
sacrilege, the rending of the church by lack of charity. (3) His 
distinction between the essential church composed of those who 
genuinely belong to Christ and the outward empirical church 
which includes sinners — the distinction between the church vis- 
ible and the church invisible. 10 

In a definitive work on early historical theology, J. N. D. 
Kelly observes that, "By the middle of the fifth century the Ro- 


man Church had established de jure as well as de facto, a position 
of primacy in the West, and the papal claims to supremacy over 
all bishops of Christendom had been formulated in precise 
terms." 11 Upon this framework of a hierarchical view of the 
church was constructed the great institution that dominated the 
West in the Middle Ages. That is the story of the working out 
of these ideas in practice which shows the genius of the Western 
view of the church. If the Eastern church tended to be mystical 
the Western church tended to be practical, activist, and prag- 
matic. As Congar summarizes, "This was a church much more 
effectively marked by the system of militant action and the hu- 
man expression of the spiritual-celestial authority . . ," 12 

While a final pronouncement on the Roman Catholic 
dogma of the church is yet to be made, the practical outworking 
of this hierarchial view has long since been in operation. The 
church is microcosmically present in the Pope, the head of the 
church on earth. Through him spiritual authority is passed to the 
lesser orders which are in proper succession. In him the purity 
of faith is assured, the validity of the sacraments guaranteed, 
and the Christian legal system established. Vatican I (1870) 
placed the capstone on the system in its declaration of Papal 
Infallibility, a device for both securing and manipulating tradi- 
tion. As explicated in the Council of Trent (1545-1563) the 
church has instituted rites of aid to man's salvation. She reserves 
the right to interpret Scripture and to determine accepted ver- 
sions. She is the one church declaring and assuring the validity 
of the sacraments ; their power is vested in the church. Thus, the 
church is the only agent of salvation. 

The hierarchical view of the church leads to a very effic- 
ient organization and institution. It maintains organic unity 
allowing for a measure of diversity but defining the boundaries 
of divergence to be tolerated. In this view the power of the church 
rests in the hands of the few; the many are often little more 
than passive spectators accepting the assurance of salvation 
promised by ecclesiastical leaders. Purity and effectiveness in 
such a view depends upon the quality and ability of the 

The Lutheran View: A Dualistic View 

Sometimes positions are more easily described than 
named; this is true of Luther's view of the church. 13 The term 


"Dualistic View" is adopted to suggest Luther's view of the 
church as internal and outward, as hidden and seen, as a spir- 
itual fellowship and an organized association, as above the world 
and part of the world, as saved and sinner. Luther's dualism 
arose out of a dilemma: he wanted both a believer's church 
based on personal faith and experience and a territorial church 
which included all in a given locality. 14 In trying to preserve 
something of both he settled for a compromise. 

As did much of Luther's thought, his view of the church 
began with his emphasis upon justification by faith. As an Aug- 
ustinian, however, Luther believed that faith is a gift of God 
based upon election. The church, therefore, cannot be all inclu- 
sive. He insisted that the church is made up of those who live in 
true faith, hope and love; ". . . the essence, life and nature of 
the church is not a bodily assembly, but an assembly of hearts 
in one faith, . . ." 15 Moreover, Luther saw that the church is 
one, not because of any relation to a center like Rome, but be- 
cause ". . . each one preaches, believes, hopes, loves, and lives 
like the other." 16 A spiritual unity makes a church. Further, 
Luther's view of the sacraments brought him to the belief that 
only convinced believers in true relationship with God and fel- 
lowship with the church should share in the Lord's supper, for 
only where faith is present are the sacraments efficacious. 

Such views imply both a spiritualistic approach to the 
church and a high degree of individualism. Realizing dangers in 
these tendencies Luther emphasized ideas which modified the 
positions and held them in tension with balancing views. He was 
forced to this from two directions : the necessity of establishing 
an evangelical church order over against the Catholics and the 
urgency of setting forth a defense against the theories of the 
Anabaptists of the type of Muntzer. 17 In providing these answers 
he moved in the direction of a territorial church. 

In the matter of establishing an evangelical church order 
Luther had to consider a form to be assumed by the external 
church that it might be an appropriate agency for the production 
of the communion of saints. Here Luther insisted that only the 
Word and the sacraments are necessary for the existence of the 
church ; the hierarchy and the Roman See are not essential. The 
role of the Word and the sacraments was not to be minimized in 
any way, however. To him these were the marks which made 
the "bodily external Christendom (Christenheit)" evident. To 


this outer church belong leaders and laity whether truly Chris- 
tian or not. "The external marks, whereby one can perceive 
where this church is on earth, are baptism, the Sacrament 
(Lord' Supper), and the Gospel." 18 These were more than orna- 
ments of the church ; indeed, they were seen as effective in bring- 
ing people to God. He wrote, "Where baptism and the gospel are, 
there let no one doubt that there are also saints, even though it 
should be only children in their cradles." The outward bodily 
church and the inner spiritual church are to be carefully discrim- 
inated, but not separated. They are related to one another as 
body and soul in man. 19 

Luther's view of the church worked out in a kind of dual- 
ism in many areas of theology and experience. In anthropology 
he saw justified man as yet sinner. The man of Romans, chapter 
seven, was for Luther the justified man struggling — not very 
successfully — against sin in the flesh. Following through on this 
view into society-at-large Luther saw the need for the authority 
and power of the state to keep men in line — even in a Christian 
state. He saw little prospect of the coming of a Christian society. 
A man was a citizen of two communities, the church and the 
state. Each had its function. It was good to have Christian 
princes governing the state, but the state was hereby not more 
Christian, even though in such a state the church could play its 
role more fully. 

Luther's dualism tended toward polarization in many 
areas of theology and practice rather than balance and tension. 
In seeking to retain opposites rather than finding a synthesis or a 
balance, a potentially unstable situation obtains. History showed 
that people tend either to bog down into an unconcerned in- 
difference in the face of apparently irreconcilable tenets; or, 
having a vital concern in the life and thinking of the church, 
they tend to move toward one pole or the other creating divisions. 

The Calvinistic View: A Theocratic View 

While the term "Theocratic" generally has application to 
a dominant role of a church or a priestly class in the state, for 
want of a better, this term is applied here to Calvin's view of 
the church. This is justified in the light of Calvin's emphasis 
upon divine sovereignty and his view of the application of that 
sovereignty within every aspect of the church and extending 


beyond into society. Calvin's idea of the church was seasoned 
by a dream of the Holy Commonwealth in the terrestrial sphere. 

John Calvin, who was among the latest of the great Re- 
formation writers, borrowed freely from earlier reformers in 
developing his view of the church. 20 His view of the Lord's Sup- 
per as a channel of spiritual communion was similar to that of 
Luther. The concept of the Holy Commonwealth along with that 
of limited use of external aids in worship showed affinities to 
Zwingli. The idea of the church as a community of convinced 
believers and the demand for rigorous discipline suggested Ana- 
baptist influence. However, Calvin adapted these elements to 
his own thinking and in light of the idea of divine sovereignty 
developed them into a view of the church that was his own. 

For Calvin, influenced by Augustine, the church was con- 
stituted of all the elect — the dead, the living, and the unborn, 21 
though it is not clear to man in every case who is a true member 
of the church. "Church" as used in the Scriptures frequently 
designated the whole multitude dispersed over all the world, 
professing faith in Jesus Christ, initiated into his faith by bap- 
tism, testifying to their unity in doctrine and communion, and 
consenting to the Word. Many in the church, however, are not of 
it, for there are here hypocrites of various sorts. This makes 
necessary a differentiation between the church visible and the 
church invisible: the tares ever grow along with the wheat. 22 
Calvin stated, "We ought to acknowledge as members of the 
church all those who by a confession of faith, an exemplary life, 
and a participation of the sacraments, profess the same God 
and Christ with ourselves." 23 

The true, invisible church, being based on election, is 
known but to God. Calvin found the doctrine of election — 
trust in absolute divine sovereignty in relation to individual sal- 
vation — a doctrine of comfort. He was willing to leave such mat- 
ters to God. It was not man's business to be preoccupied with 
his salvation, to seek assurance, or to earn his salvation ; man's 
vocation was to honor God. 24 Calvin was willing to outline these 
matters as he saw them in the Scriptures. The outworking he 
left to God while he turned the greater part of his attention to 
the structure and activity and expression of the visible church. 

According to Calvin the church of God exists "wherever 
we find the word of God purely preached and heard and the 


sacraments administered according to the institution of 
Christ." 25 It is necessary for persons to be related to the church, 
for God considers "every one as a traitor and apostate from re- 
ligion, who perversely withdraws himself from any Christian 
society which preserves the true ministry of the word and sacra- 
ments. . . . Separation from the church is the denial of God and 
Christ." 26 With the church is vested the power of the keys, the 
power of granting forgiveness and the ministry of reconcilia- 
tion, 27 a power associated with the preaching of the Gospel, 28 
For these reasons Calvin was concerned that the entire commun- 
ity be involved in the church and that the church be involved in 
the entire community. 

Calvin was explicit that the state should be distinct from 
the church. Only the state had power to wield the sword and to 
administer physical punishment against evil doers — even if they 
were a part of the church. However, within the church itself 
there must be discipline. Believers should be admonished regard- 
ing their errors ; those who led scandalous lives should be removed 
from the church. The wicked should be separated from the right- 
eous that they may not be an evil influence and that the erring 
may be led to repentance. 29 Such correction should not be admin- 
istered by one person, but by a lawful assembly. 30 

In actual practice, first in Geneva, and later in Scotland 
and New England, the Reformed Church shaped after Calvin's 
thought became an agency which enforced the will of the church 
on the whole community. In these Calvinistic centers where the 
church was able to dominate the situation, life and morality 
were prescribed by the church. To have significant voice in the 
community one must be a part of the church, subscribing to its 
principles and practices. The structure of the church with the 
eldership serving as a kind of spy system to root out evil and 
divergency assured an oligarchy of the elect. The magistrates 
became the servants of the church to provide and enforce laws 
which would secure spiritual and material prosperity and to 
punish every uprising against the recognized religion. 31 The 
consistory, under the guidance of the clergy, elders, and deacons, 
became the voice of God to the community guiding its affairs, 
establishing a theocracy in fact. Such a Holy Commonwealth 
could be realized only as there was high selectivity of member- 
ship. Disidents had to line up or leave. 

A theocratic view of the church carries advantages for 


the church in its handling of competition. The church directly 
or indirectly controls manners and morals through discipline in 
the church, legislation in society-at-large, and elimination of the 
opposition in general. It makes for a rigorous and demanding 
church, both in itself and in the community — at least in the first 
stages of the theocracy and for as long as the vision persists with 
clarity. The church is all-encompassing; all facets of life come 
under its domination. Church and community are essentially one. 

Problems arise from this view in that religion is prac- 
tically forced upon people. While ideally all are church members 
voluntarily, in fact, many are members and participate in the 
church under pressure and for expediency. In succeeding gen- 
erations problems become particularly apparent as those born 
into the families of the godly fail to share in the vision of their 
parents. More than some others this approach contributes to 
hypocrisy within the church because there is so much to be 
gained in maintaining an appearance of godliness. 

Reflections And Conclusions 

From the views of the church surveyed in this study sev- 
eral statements may be offered as reflections suggesting 
conclusions : 

1. Theology is fundamental to ecclesiology. The way in 
which a group understands God and his ways with men will have 
considerable bearing upon the view of the church which it de- 
velops. Any religious body must keep its theology in view as it 
attempts to clarify its ecclesiology. 

2. Ecclesiology determines polity within a religious 
body; indeed, polity is the means for interpreting and applying 
the view of the church. 

3. Out of ecclesiology flows the "style of life" and the 
general direction of religious thought and expression of the 
members of a religious body. A shift in ecclesiology will precede 
shifts in the "style of life" and the general direction of expres- 
sion of the members of a group and vice versa. 

In conclusion, it may be said that a clear understanding and 
explication of the doctrine of the church is crucial to a logical 


development and an effective expression of any religious body. 
A grasp of the nature of the church by its members is a key to 
any intelligent witness to the world. 

i Athanasius, Of the Incarnation, in Johannes Quasten, Patrol- 
ogy (Westminster, Md.: The Newman Press, 1963), Vol. Ill, p. 71. 

2 M. J. Congar, Chretiens Desunis, Principes d'un "OEcumen- 
isme" Catholique, tr. by the present writer (Paris: Les Editions du Cerf, 
1937), p. 14. 

3 John Oman, "The Church," James Hastings, Encyclopedia of 
Religion and Ethics (N. Y.: Scribners, 1911), III, p. 622. 

4 Yves Congar, After Nine Hundred Years (New York: Ford- 
ham University Press, 1959), p. 51. 

5 Irenaeus, Against Heresies, III, 24, 1. 

6 Ibid., Ill, 3, 2. 

7 Cyprian, The Unity of the Church. 
s Epistle LXVIII, 8. 

9 The Unity of the Church and various Epistles, e.g., 

LIX, 5; LX, 5; LXIX, 1. 

10 J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines (New York: Harper 
and Brothers 1960), pp. 412-417. 

il Ibid., p. 417. 

12 Congar, op. cit., p. 52. 

13 It should be stated that this study seeks to present some of 
Luther's views of the church rather than elaborate those developed in the 
Lutheran movement. The same applies in the case of Calvin and the Re- 
formed movement. 

14 Roland Baintan, Here I Stand (New York, Mentor Books, 
1950), p. 243. 

15 Martin Luther, "The Papacy at Rome," Works of Martin 
Luther, Philadelphia Edition, 6 vols. (Philadelphia: Muhlenburg Press, 
1943), I, p. 349. 

16 Ibid. 

1 7 Reinhold Seeburg, Textbook of the History o/ Doctrines 
(Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1964), II, p. 292. 

is Luther, op. cit., p. 361 

19 Ibid. 

20 Roland Bainton, The Reformation of the Sixteenth Century 
(Boston, Mass.: Beacon Press, paperback ed., 13th printing, 1965), p. 110. 

2 i John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, IV, i, 7. 

22 Ibid. 

23 Ibid., IV, i, 8. 

24 Ibid., Ill, xxi, 1-7. 

2 5 Ibid., IV, i, 9. 

26 Ibid., IV, i, 10. 


27 Ibid., IV, i, 22. 

28 Ibid., IV, xi, 1. 

29 /6id., IV, xii, 6. 
3 Ibid., IV, xi, 5. 

31 Seeberg, op. cit., p. 411. 


nd Theological 

Ashland Theological Seminary 

Ashland, Ohio 

Spring 1970 



Winona Lake, Indiana 46590 

Ashland Theological Seminary 
Ashland, Ohio 


Spring, 1970 


Introduction to the Current Issue 
The Editor - 

Biblical Studies and the Seminary Curriculum 
Bruce C. Stark, Th. D. - 

The Origin of Languages 

Jerry A. Grieve, M. Div. - - - - 15 

Jesus Calls His Disciples to a Life of Supreme Commitment 
Louis F. Gough, Th. D. ----- 23 

Christian Comprehensiveness 

D. Ray Heisey, Ph. D. - - - - - - 31 

Baxter Collection Added to Seminary Library 

Agnes Ballantyne -39 

Editorial Committee: Owen H. Alderfer, editor 

Bruce C. Stark 
Joseph R. Shultz, Dean 

Vol. Ill No. 1 

Published by Ashland Theological Seminary, Ashland, Ohio 44805 

Introduction to the Current Issue 

THE PRESENT issue of the Ashland Theological Bulletin is 
built upon the idea of Biblical centrality which is a basic 
concern of Ashland Theological Seminary. The approach to the 
subject, in this issue, is practical rather than theoretical; that 
is, the writers take their inspiration and basis from the Scrip- 
tures and develop their ideas accordingly. They are working with 
the Bible rather than writing about it. 

Dr. Stark wrestles with the crucial issue of the role and 
significance of the Bible in seminary studies, presenting the 
view that the Scriptures must be the hub around which any ade- 
quate curriculum can be built. The Bulletin invites response from 
educators and clergy to the ideas presented by this statement. 

In the second article the writer examines the Babel 
narrative from the Old Testament and applies the insights of 
the science of linguistics to his exposition with interesting in- 
sights for the origin of languages. The next article examines a 
New Testament passage exegetically and gives light on a difficult 
saying of Jesus. 

The final article, "Christian Comprehensiveness," is an 
example of Biblical preaching from the Epistle to the Hebrews 
as presented in the seminary chapel by Dr. Heisey, Associate 
Professor of Speech and Homiletics. 

A news note describing the Baxter Collection of library 
works from Scotland is included. Miss Agnes Ballantyne, Library 
Cataloguer, Retired, writes of the distinguised scholar, James 
Houston Baxter and his notable private library, a part of which 
has come to the A. T. S. Library. 

Owen H. Alderfer, editor 

Contributors to This Issue 

Louis F. Gough is Professor of New Testament at A. T. S. 

Jerry A. Grieve is a 1969 alumnus of A. T. S. completing work for a 
Master of Arts degree in linguistics at Michigan State University. 

D. Ray Heisey, a member of the Adjunct Faculty of A. T. S., is Associate 
Professor of Speech and Homiletics. He currently serves as Associate Pro- 
fessor of Speech at Kent State University, Kent, Ohio. 

Bruce C. Stark is Professor of Hebrew and Old Testament at A. T. S. 

Biblical Studies and 
The Seminary Curriculum 

Bruce C. Stark 

THE PLACE of Biblical studies in the seminary curriculum is 
one of the most difficult and controverted aspects of theologi- 
cal experience today. A major reason for this is a shifting away 
from traditional concepts of revelation, authority and inspiration, 
but even in conservative schools the problem persists. 1 The land- 
slide of changes in curricula connote a certain uneasiness in high 
places. These changes go far beyond a mere interest in being 
contemporary, and may betray fundamental uncertainties in the 
minds of theological educators. The problem worsens in the face 
of withering criticism and persistent charges of "irrelevance" 
leveled against the theological institutions. What appears to be 
needed is a Christian philosophy of theological education that 
is firm enough not to be cast about by every wind of change, and 
yet flexible enough to take sensitive account of the deep concerns 
of contemporary men. 

One's concept of the role of Biblical studies is relative to 
the educational philosophy he holds, and this in turn is embraced 
in principle in a world and life view. In our context of thinMng, 
Christian theology provides the framework, motivation, and 
perspective for the educational process. A defective theology 
invalidates any educational philosophy built upon it, and this 
inadequacy may well erupt in confusion, backtracking, vacilla- 
tion, or fragmentation of the theological curriculum. Need it 
be added that a truly Christian theology must be Biblically in- 
formed ? We turn then to that aspect of Christian theology that 
pertains to the Bible itself. 


Biblical Primacy an Inference from a Proper View of 
Revelation, Authority, and Inspiration 

The Bible is an utterly unique book in that it is the em- 
bodiment of a divine message revealed to the prophets and 
apostles of old. While the means used to communicate the mes- 
sage were various, and while a wide spectrum of human person- 
alities is utilized, the message is not human in its source but 
divine. The possibility of such a communication is vindicated in 

the light of man's image relationship to God (Gen. 1:26, 27). 
The necessity of it is enforced by human depravity, and the 
actuality of it in Scripture is a witness to the grace and power 
of God. There is, to be sure, an epochal character to this revela- 
tion, so that the 0. T. came bit by bit and in various ways, cul- 
minating in Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1, 2). The 0. T. revelation 
is not less divine than the N. T. The unity between the Testa- 
ments is fundamental in the manner of promise and fulfillment. 
The 0. T. epoch was not a ghostly cast of bloodless specters 
whose shadowy forms acted out a spooky charade of things to 
come, but, rather, a solid revelation of the grace and power of a 
holy God. Francisco has well said, "If the Old Testament is only 
the New Testament in hieroglyphics, it is much more simple for 
one to read the New Testament." 2 God did, in fact, speak unto 
the fathers in the prophets, and to this sublime fact the N. T. 
itself bears eloquent witness. Attempts to truncate revelation by 
driving a wedge between the Old and the New, or, more radically, 
to limit revelation to human experience itself without welding 
it inseparably to an inerrant Bible, are causes of grave concern 
and must be met squarely and unflinchingly. The Holy Spirit 
speaking in and through the Scriptures is well able to meet the 
spiritual needs of men everywhere, revealing the guilty and dis- 
ordered state of their own hearts and the complete sufficiency 
of Christ's redeeming work. The practicality and effectiveness 
of the Word testifies to its divine origin and thus corroborates 
its own claim. 

Divine authority (the right to command), is implicit in 
the revelational character of the Scripture. 3 Ultimate authority 
is in God and when God speaks the world must listen or pay the 
consequences. The authority of the Bible is intrinsic to the mes- 
sage itself, and being God's Word its authority is totally uncondi- 
tioned. When the message of the Bible is correctly apprehended 
it is uncompromising and unyielding. While divine administra- 
tions may change according to the wisdom of him who works 
all things after the counsel of his own will, the truth of God is 
as deathless as God himself. While it is always important that 
men apprehend the message in a vital and personal way, human 
appropriation can in no proper sense be said to establish Biblical 
authority. Human religious experience must be authentic exeperi- 
ence but Scripturally interpreted. Moreover, even the most fervid 
experience is susceptible to misunderstanding and it is not un- 
common that its very intensity tends to increase the probability 

that it will. 4 The Scripture is a "home" for the anchor of faith, 
and Christian experience is tied to it. 

While the concept of inspiration is still muddled in the 
minds of many in spite of the avalanche of literature dealing 
with it, it is necessary to point out that in terms of the interpre- 
tation of the Greek word theopneustos (inspired) in II Tim. 
3:16, this must be taken to refer specifically to the text of the 
0. T., and, by implication, applied to the whole Bible. It is the 
recorded words of God that are "inspired", i. e., God-breathed. 
Insofar as the human authors are concerned, the divine enable- 
ment and guidance that they experienced are very real (II Peter 
1:21), but in the interests of theological precision they should 
be described by different terms. Being a faithful record of God's 
message, the Bible embodies a quality shared by no other book, 
and breathes a spirit known to no other literature. 5 All of these 
theological points need to be kept in mind as the bases upon which 
the subsequent ideas are built. Affirming these things to be true, 
let us relate them to the question of the seminary (curriculum. 


Biblical Primacy Hindered By A Faulty 
Concept of Departments 

It has been generally assumed, probably too hastily, that 
departmental structure in some traditional sense is essential to 
the task. There is, however, a grave danger in parcelling out the 
materials of theological education in this manner. While it is 
true that special subject areas must be taken into serious account, 
departmental zeal has been known to reveal itself in whirlpools 
of self-interest, which are physically related but functionally 
isolated. While a certain camaraderie may develop in such a 
ghetto, the total effect is not helpful. The tendency is to drift 
into a pathological self-identity at the expense of the seminary 
as a whole. Harmonious and effective departmental relationships 
can be built upon mutual respect for the dignity and significance 
of all phases of the academic program. Close proximity of sub- 
ject areas is no guarantee of automatic solidarity. 

Yet. it is erroneous to assume that every department is of 
equal importance and the attempt to defend this doubtful thesis 
is an implicit disrespect to the Word of God, though not neces- 
sarily intentional. It would appear necessary to insist that there 
is some central point of focus in the curriculum to which every- 
thing else related and in which they inhere, something after the 

pattern of a mosaic with a central piece and a supporting pattern. 
We are contending that Biblical studies constitute this point of 

Since the subject of our inquiry is the role of Biblical 
studies, we must indicate the sense in which the term is beting 
employed. It can be taken quite properly in the wider sense to 
include background and methodological studies. Courses on Bible 
Introduction, Greek, Hebrew, Hermeneutics, etc. would fall in 
this grouping. More precisely, however, we shall take the ex- 
pression to refer to applied studies related to the form and con- 
tent of the Bible, especially as these come to focus in Biblical 
Theology. Adopting the narrower view implies no disparagement 
of the methodological courses, for without the proper keys we 
could not unlock the spiritual treasures of the Bible. The dis- 
tinction we are making is the ancient one between method and 


Biblical Primacy Reflected in 
Interdepartmental Relations 

The centrality of Biblical studies in the curriculum may 
be reinforced and spelled out somewhat by considering more 
precisely what the lines of connection are. We are not implying 
that other subject areas do not sustain a connection to each other, 
but we do wish to underscore the foundational and structural 
significance of the Biblical. 

A. Biblical Studies and Practics 

Practical theology generally is understood to include, how- 
ever the terminology may vary, Christian Education, Pastoral 
Ministries, Liturgies, and Christian Missions. Practics gets its 
inspiration and direction from the Bible. The relation of the 
Bible to preaching and counselling is fundamental. Whether 
the preaching is the "sincere milk of the word," or "strong meat," 
it should be Biblical in content. Many a congregation is dying a 
death of spiritual malnutrition. Counselling that professes even 
the remotest connection to Christian faith has long recognized 
the therapeutic value of the Bible. Guidelines for personal 
decisions and encouragement from the toilsome way are found 
here. Psychological techniques, where valid, should be used, but 
they must be interpreted in a Christian manner. 

Christian education too must understand its task in terms 
of Biblical revelation. The tendency to drift into a religious prag- 

matism where mere "effectiveness" in some Philistine sense of 
the word is considered primary, bears more likeness to the image 
of John Dewey than to Jesus Christ. Biblical relatedness bears 
no arms against progressive and forward-looking attitudes; 
quite otherwise as a matter of fact, for only as educators recog- 
nize this connection are they in a position to plan and evaluate 
creatively and honorably within the kingdom of God. 

The Christian task in world missions must be Biblically 
justified and guided. No Christian outreach can afford the doubt- 
ful luxury of a nebulous Biblical theology. The fundamental theo- 
logical concepts of God, man, sin and redemption, that are 
exegetically valid, need to be securely in hand. Also, the relation 
of the missionary to his task, his mission board, and to his church, 
must be understood in terms that are Biblically defensible. All 
of this is not necessarily a plea for a "chapter and verse" men- 
tality, for Biblical validity goes beyond explicit textual reference 
to embrace the clear implications of the Spirit's directives or 
any logical extension of Biblical principles. 

B. Biblical Studies and History 

Sacred history both antedates and postdates the text of 
the Bible, but as soon as we attempt to define in some way what 
we mean by "history" we are thrown back upon the insights pro- 
vided by the Bible. Irrespective of what aspect of redemptive 
experience we may choose to concern ourselves With, it is evident 
that Biblical materials must be either presupposed or specifically 
handled. The theological concepts of creation, providence and 
consummation are the girders around which the stuff of history 
is built. The whole idea of history as directional and teleological 
is a Scriptural one, and delivers us from the bleak despair and 
chilling influence of philosophies of history that attempt to in- 
terpret the course of the centuries from the (inside out. History 
is the creation of God and should be approached in this light. 6 

C. Biblical Studies and System atics 

The organization of Scriptural teachings into some theo- 
logical pattern may be designated systematic ■theology. The 
stress falls upon logical connections and exegetical justification. 
It must be stated emphatically that no adequate Christian sys- 
tematics is possible except as the fruit of mature, painstaking 
and scrupulous attention to the Bible text. Nothing can dissipate 
the musty smell of the ivory tower — too often a concomitant of 
the great systems of the past — like a breath of fresh air from the 
Word of God. The truth of the Scriptures must be ever expressed 

in contemporary language and thought patterns, reflecting to 
some degree the idiom of the day. This attempt to give an up-to- 
date expression to the teachings of the Bible is highly commend- 
able per se, but it is not to be applauded if it tries to substitute 
modern forms for spiritual depth. We have had quite enough 
of the light-hearted exegesis that cringes at the sight of a Greek 
verb or Hebrew clause. The theologian's first responsibility is to 
deal with the inscripturated Word in situ. Biblical validity is 
the authority of any theological system. 

Biblical Primacy Reflected in Curricular Structure 

The seminary curriculum is a tree, having parallels dis- 
cernable to root, trunk and branches. This pattern clarifies the 
logical relations of the courses and indicates in a general way 
the chronological order in which a student might encounter them. 
Practical or psychological considerations, in a specific individ- 
ual's case, may at times require some other sequence of course 
experience, but there is a natural order and this should not be 
disregarded without solid reasons. 

A. The Roots 

Two areas should be designated as roots: (1) Under- 
graduate Background; and (2) Theological Method. 

Most seminaries have a tough-looking list of entrance re- 
quirements, but these not infrequently look more awesome than 
they really are, and can be bullied somewhat by a determined 
challenge from an acedemically under-equipped student. Too 
elastic a policy here, however, practical considerations to the 
contrary notwithstanding, is not without its negative effect. 
When classes come to be composed of academic "have's" and 
"have not's," there is a virtual guarantee of mediocre achieve- 
ment. Seminary learning has its social and competitive aspects. 
Where the challenge of friendly competition is impossible through 
gross inequities in background or natural ability, a very useful 
educational tool is blunted. Perhaps the most dependable and 
honorable way of guaranteeing that minimal entrance require- 
ments are met, is a series of well-designed tests intended to re- 
veal (irrespective of undergraduate course work reported) 
exactly what the level of background of a given student is. The 
mechanics of this would have to be carefully considered accord- 
ing to the specific situation. Mature college experiences in 
English, history, science, philosophy, psychology, etc., are vital, 

and deficiencies in these areas should be dealt with before theo- 
logical study proper begins. 

B. The Trunk 

Biblical studies constitute the trunk of the tree, and in 
approaching Biblio-theological materials the historical principle 
seems both valid and fruitful. Full account must be taken of all 
the phenomena presented by the text, and the theological con- 
cepts may then be discussed in terms of progressive unfolding. 
The term generally used to describe this approach is Biblical 
Theology, and although the name is subject to considerable 
misunderstanding, it seems best to retain it and try to make 
certain that the idea of development through progressive revela- 
tion comes through. 7 This idea is readily applicable to 0. T. 
studies where the historical expanse involved is considerable. 
The expression Biblical Theology takes on a slightly different 
cast when applied to the N. T., for here the whole process of 
divine revelation is confined to a period of fifty years or less. 
The N. T. theologies are therefore customarily organized in terms 
of Synoptic theology, Johannine theology, Petrine theology, etc., 
and there seems no substantial reason to quarrel with this organ- 
ization. In adopting the historical principle in Biblical studies 
we garner several advantages: 

1. Setting the study of the Bible and its theology within 
the womb of history will tend to create a wholesome appreciation 
of the past. 

2. The historical method does most justice to the way 
in which God has, as a matter of fact, revealed Himself. 

3. The historical principle in Biblio-theological study 
tends to convey a deep sense of the wholeness and continuity of 

4. The historical method is the most contemporary 
method. Though frequently abused by naturalistic presupposi- 
tions and perspectives, it is widely employed to good advantage. 
In fact, the revival of Biblical theology as an historical discipline 
could very well be one of the most important theological develop- 
ments of modern times. 

It is of maximal importance that Biblical studies not be 
thinned out by a variety of practical expediencies. A high 
achievement level is not an ethereal ideal but a grim and down- 
to-earth essential, as all theose who are involved will discover 
when they come to give account of their stewardship. It would 
seem that the Christian churches have a right to expect their 

ministers to be men of professional attainment, men broadly 
cultivated in all areas, but above all, men who are thoroughly 
versed in the Bible. 

Assuming the historical principle, we may illustrate how 
this works out in a classroom situation. Starting with a hypo- 
thetical course which we shall call 0. T. I, designed to cover the 
books of Genesis and Exodus, it might be worked out as follows : 


HO S' N! 


25 SV»s 












































* Number of sessions alotted to each category is suggestive only. 

Appropriate members of the faculty (regular or special), 
would be called in as resource persons for a specified number of 
sessions. Each would be free to handle the materials in his own 
area of responsibility with as much imagination and creativity 
as possible, but would be conscious that his particular contribu- 
tion must be intergrated as a part of the whole corpus of 
material. One professor would be in charge of the course and 
could help in synthesizing the various contributions. Some 
definite agreement would have to obtain as to what is included 
in the various areas of Literary, Historical, Contextual, Critical, 
Theological and Practical. Listed below is a suggested break- 
down of responsibility. 
I. Historical 

A. Historical background of the books, political, cultural, 

B. Geography 

C. Historicity of persons and events in the book 


D. Chronology of the period 

E. Archaeological data bearing on general background 

II. Critical 

A. Title 

B. Authorship and Date (exclusive of personality study 
of author) 

C. Language (s) employed in writing the book 

D. Provenance (source and occasion) 

E. Composition 

F. Canonicity 

III. Literary 

A. Form 

1. Linguistic and syntactical analysis of text or 
portions thereof 

2. Literary form of the book as a whole 
(Novel, Drama, Epistle, History, etc.) 

3. Literary forms of sections of the book 

(Poem, Parable, Proverb, Memoirs, Genealogy, 

4. Figures of Speech 

5. Symbols 

6. Structure 

a. Intrinsic structure 

b. Extrinsic structure 

7. History of the text since canonization recognized 

8. Special features or peculiarities 

B. Content 

1. Over-view of the whole book 

2. Substance of particular passages 

C. Context 

1. Parallels of form or content in the same book 

2. Parallels of form or content in other Bible books 

3. Extra-biblical parallels 

IV. Theological (Actually a part of Content, treated separate- 

ly for fuller discussion) 

A. Means of Revelation used 

B. The Subjective Reception of Revelation 

C. Purpose of the book and how it is expressed 

D. Major theological concepts 

E. Progress of theological ideas 


V. Practical 

A. Devotional Significance of the Book (Prayer, etc.) 

B. Sermonic use 

C. Liturgical use 

D. Missionary thrust 

E. Christian educational use 

VI. Literature 

A. Periodical 

B. Other 

Approaching Biblical materials in this way assures 
involvement from a wide spectrum of faculty members, thus 
encouraging the idea that there is something fundamental about 
the place of Biblical studies in the curriculum. It also makes 
possible a more effective relating of non-Biblical materials to 
the Biblical studies by having some people directly involved 
whose major responsibilities lie in another area. Rigid depart- 
mentalization is thus discouraged if not rendered impossible. 
All this is gain. 

C. The Branches 

After Biblical materials have been dealt with, the student 
would normally expect to move into the area of practical theolo- 
gy. There is a sense in which the thrust of the entire seminary 
program comes to focus here. Practics, as previously noted, is 
not exempt from the discipline of Biblio-theological perspective, 
but must interpret its tasks in accord with it. While a compar- 
atively greater degree of flexibility and sensitivity to new ways 
and means should be reflected here, novelty should be discour- 
aged. Mere innovation achieves nothing, except perhaps to con- 
tribute to the educator's own self-deception of progress. Changes 
are not intrinsically good or bad, but must be evaluated from 
the point of view dictated by theological stance as related to the 
current human situation. 

Concurrent to his broad experience in practical theology, 
the senior student will also launch into a field of major interest. 
This might be any one of the four major departmental areas or 
an aspect of one. Hopefully, the student closes out his seminary 
training with direct involvement in the practical concerns of 
Christian ministering, whether on or off campus, and in explor- 
ing a major special interest area of his own. A thesis require- 
ment would relate to the latter. 



Throughout this essay we have sought to establish the 
central significance of Biblical studies in the seminary curricu- 
lum. The curricular concerns of the seminary are tied up with a 
Christian theology and the specific theological frame of reference 
of the institution. Departments in the usual and formal sense can 


be detrimental if the "links in a chain" concept is taken to imply 
departmental equality or separation. Biblical studies relate to all 
departments so as to constitute a central focal point in a mosaic 
pattern. Success within the Biblio-theological area requires 
adequate background and skills on the part of participating 
students, who will be engaged in applying the historical principle 
to the books of the Bible. The total thrust of Biblical study so 
construed is directed concurrently into practical theology and a 
specialized major field interest. 

1 Kenneth Kantzer, "The Authority of the Bible," in Merrill C. 
Tenney, ed., The Word for This Centxwy (New York: Oxford University 
Press, 1969), p. 26. 

2 Clyde T. Francisco, Introducing the Old Testament (Nashville: 
Broadman Press, 1950), p. 1. 

3 Bernard Ramm, The Pattern of Religious Authority (Grand 
Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1957). Ramm's definition 
of authority is found on p. 10, but his whole discussion is extremely helpful. 
See pp. 38-40 especially. 

4 For two bizarre examples of religious fanaticism see Warren C. 
Young, A Christian Approach to Philosophy (Grand Rapids: Baker Book 
House, 1963 printing) p. 222, footnote 10. Young refers to two articles 
that appeared in the Chicago Tribune under the dates of Sept. 4, 1949; 
and Sept. 18, 1949. 

5 A most remarkable digest of the wealth of English literature on 
the subject of inspiration in the last one-hundred years is found in H. D. 
McDonald, Theories of Revelation (London: George Allen & Unwin LTD, 

6 Earle E. Caims, "Christian Faith and History," in Hudson T. 
Armerding, ed., Christianity and the World of Thought (Chicago: Moody 
Press, 1968) p. 160. 

7 See objections to the term in Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology, 
(Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1959) p. 23. 


The Origin of Languages 
Jerry A. Grieve 

At that time the speech and vocabulary of all the inhabitants of the 
earth were one and the same. When they were making their journey 
eastward they found a plain in the land of Shinar, whereupon they 
proceeded immediately to inhabit it. Soon men were making strong 
appeals to one another: "Let us make bricks and burn them thorough- 
ly." ( So it was that they had brick to use for stone, and for the mortar 
they used bitumen.) "Come on," they said, "let us build a city and a 
tower whose top extend to the very heavens. Let us thereby make a 
reputation for ourselves to prevent our being scattered throughout 
the earth." Later, the Lord proceeded to come down in order to investi- 
gate the city and the tower which the human race had built. "Look 
there," the Lord said. "All the people are one and their speech is one; 
hence this is what they have begun to do. And now nothing will prevent 
them from carrying out whatever they continually plan to do. Come 
then, let us go down there and so confuse their language that they 
may not understand one another's speech." Therefore, the Lord pro- 
ceeded to scatter them from that place throughout the earth, and so 
they stopped building the city. Consequently, it was given the name 
"Babel" because there the Lord confused the speech of all the people, 
and from there He scattered them throughout the earth. (Personal 
translation of Gen. 11:1-9) 

THE OLD problems of reconciling what appear to be contradic- 
tions between what the Bible says and what science says 
has frustrated many scholarly inquiries into the truth of matters. 
Note that these are apparent contradictions; there can be no 
contradictions between what the Bible in fact declares to be true 
and reality. The particular difficulty usually lies either in the 
exegesis of Scripture or in the accuracy of the conflicting scien- 
tific pronouncements. It would appear that the conflict in Gen- 
esis 11:1-9 concerning the diversity of the world's languages is 
an example of the former. That Hebrew was the original lan- 
guage and that God created the diverse languages of the world 
by the confusion of tongues, remained practically unquestioned 
until the 19th century. 1 However, the Bible makes no claim 


about the identity of the original language — much less that 
Hebrew was that language. And if we have misunderstood 
what the real miracle is in the above passage, then the following 
remarks on a very familiar subject may be justified. Briefly 
stated, it is the purpose of this paper to give an interpretation 
of the "tower of Babel" which is at once faithful to the inspired 
record and compatible with modern linguistic science. 

There are many ponderous issues that could receive 
attention in this passage. For brevity's take we will focus only 
on what is germane to our purpose. The focal issue which we 
wish to elaborate is whether the event here recorded concerns 
the diversity of language, or whether it concerns the dispersion 
of people. The plan of attack is first to set forth the guidelines 
furnished by the inspired record, and then to expand and add 
what information we can with the help of linguistics. 

A Biblical Point of View 

By taking Babel as a kind of historical focal point, the 
Bible clearly indicates that before Babel the human race was 
united, but that after Babel it became divided. This so-called 
unity is to be seen, first of all, in the use of the adjective "one" 
for modifying three different nouns: "speech" (saphah), 
"words" (debharim), and "people" {'am). 2 The inspired writer 
then informs us that the people sought a more substantial unity 
by building a city and a tower. The underlying motive for doing 
this is negatively cast in the expression, ". . . lest we be scattered 
abroad upon the face of the whole earth." (All quotations from 
the Bible are from the RSV.) Such a motive was in direct viola- 
tion of the will of God expressed to Noah and his family after 
the flood: "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth." 3 
Through unbelief the people desired some means which would 
keep them together and thus hopefully promise security and 
eminence to ward off their unmitigated fears. The Lord inter- 
prets their action as being a logical outgrowth of the unanimity 
of sin: "Behold, they are one people, and they have all one lan- 
guage; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; and 
nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them." 

That His command to populate the whole earth may be 
obeyed, and that man may no longer dissipate himself upon such 
foolish undertakings, the Lord decreed an end to their vain 
unity : "Come, let us go down, and there confuse their language, 
that they may not understand one another's speech." Such is 


the stated purpose, but note how it is executed: "So the Lord 

scattered them abroad " To bring about diversity of language 

the Lord first caused a dispersion. The real miracle in the tower 
of Babel, then, is not the confusion of tongues but the scattering 
of the people. Three points bring support to this exegesis: (1) A 
syntactic identification of the verbal wayyaphets reveals that 
it is a waw consecutive signifying logical result. Thus the action 
which commences in verse 8 proceeds directly, in a logical way, 
from verse 7. The English words "so" or "therefore" translate 
this feature of the Hebrew verb quite adequately. (Also, the per- 
fects balal and hephitsam in verses 9 are not temporally ordered 
so as to suggest that the confusion transpired before the scatter- 
ing. Rather, they are correlative ideas associated with the naming 
of "Babel".) (2) Other references to this phenomenon mention 
only that the earth was divided (Gen. 10:5, 25, 32). This would 
seem to indicate that great migrations of people is the central 
idea expanded upon in 11 :l-9. (3) Discoveries made by linguistic 
science prove conclusively that different languages do develop 
from a single language community when groups split off by 
emigrating to new territory. The number of languages depends 
on the number of migrations both from the parent language 
and from the various daughter languages that evolved from it. 
Elaboration of this last point appears below. 

The exegesis being supported in this paper is that "the 
earth was divided," and as a consequence the one language be- 
came many. (If someone is bothered by the possibility that the 
inspired writer may have seen both these aspects as occurring 
undivided by time, he has only to look elsewhere for similar 
occurrences. 4 ) 

A Linguistic Point op View 

Language can be viewed as a static system or as a living 
organism. That is to say, we can study language from a syn- 
chronic approach or a diachronic approach (or both, if we are 
interested in giving a complete description). This dual aspect 
of language can better be seen in an illustration made famous by 
the notable French linguist, Ferdinand de Saussure. By taking 
the stem of a plant and making two cuts, one horizontally and 
the other vertically, one exposes two different views to the stem. 
The cross-section reveals a configuration of circles quite unlike 
the strands and fibers of the section cut lengthwise. Each is 
analagous to a branch of linguistics. Synchronic linguistics gives 


a static view of language — of the phonological, syntactic and 
semantic structures — in a way similar to the cross-section of 
the stem. 

The other approach to language, diachronic linguistics, 
gives an historical view — the phonological, syntactic, and seman- 
tic, changes — of the "growth" of the language. When a grammar 
is made of a language, it is like taking a snapshot of its linguistic 
structure, freezing it at one period of its development. But since 
a grammar itself undergoes no change it soon fails to reflect all 
the significant patterns that characterize the same language at a 
later period. This is why new grammars must be written, or else 
the old ones constantly revised. 

It is in studies of diachrony that we are able to see just 
how radical the changes are that affect the structure of language. 
Compare 9th centuiy Old English with Modern English ; the two 
look almost like two different languages. Diachronic studies also 
tell us that the changes one language undergoes are independent 
of the changes in another language. Such independence holds true 
when there is a division of a speech community, as when a group 
emigrates from the main body. From then on the changes in each 
group continue independently of each other. In time the changes 
result in the emergence of a new language. Such an account as this 
is what is precisely given with regard to the development of 
English from West Germanic. 5 Moreover, it is well known to lin- 
guists that the main branches of Indo-European development as 
groups successive^ broke away in migrations from the primitive 
Indo-European community. 6 

A third branch of linguistics is that called comparative 
linguistics. As the name implies this approach to language has 
to do with the comparison of forms between languages. Although 
comparative linguistics has many concerns, our main interest 
here is with language classification. There are two kinds of classi- 
fication that linguists generally distinguish. One is typological 
classification which groups languages on the basis of such typo- 
logical features as affixing, isolating, agglutinative, etc. The 
other classification is based on genetic relationship. Two lan- 
guages which are genetically related can ultimately be traced 
back to one parent language. The classificatory name given to a 
set of related languages reflects their genetic relationship. 

By comparing cognates shared by the related languages 
the linguist attempts to explain the patterned sound changes as 
being derived from a reconstructed primitive state of the parent 


language. This reconstructed form of the language is indicated 
by the prefix proto- as in Proto-Germanic. 7 Figure 1 shows the 
early development of "guest" from Proto-Germanic. 8 

The comparative method for establishing genetic relation- 
ship assumes a variety of factors that may have led to the 
development of daughter languages from a single language. 
Cleaveges such as migration or splitting of speech areas by in- 
vasion of a foreign community, and other factors not yet well 
understood, are among those assumed. 9 There are many other 
aspects of the comparative method which merit our attention but 
perforce cannot be described here. 

Once in a while, a language group which for some time 
has been thought to be by itself merges with other groups to form 
an even larger grouping. When the study of African languages 
really got under way in the 50's such Africanists as Joseph 
Greenberg noticed the similarity of some Western African lan- 
guages to the so-called Hamito-Semitic languages. In a new 
classification Semitic is now considered to be a branch of the 
Afro-Asiatic family of languages. As research continues more 
and more self-contained groupings may merge with others to 
form larger, more encompassing language families. 

The difficulty of collapsing language families into larger 
groupings may be explained by the fact that several milleniums 
of language development occur before any written records appear. 
In Indo-European there are several languages known to us only 
by written records — the languages themselves have long been 
extinct. The extant writings are nevertheless indispensable for 
making reconstructions and accounting for the sound changes 
among the related languages. One of the earliest language attest- 
ed by records is Egyptian which dates from the 4th millennium 
B.C. 10 Without a trace of written records one has an almost hope- 
less task for establishing genetic relationship of languages 
whose depth of divergence antedates 4000 B.C. by two to six 

Another explanation for the difficulty of seeing any rela- 
tionship among the major language families of the world is the 
lack of reconstructed proto-languages. Any fruitful comparison 
of Indo-European with Afro-Asiatic, for example, would have 
to be between their respective proto-languages. However, Indo- 
European is the only large language family to date that has re- 
ceived sufficient scholarly attention for reconstructing a proto- 


language. When we have proto-languages for all the putative 
families, we may then see relations never before possible. 


In our thinking such linguistic evidence as we have been 
considering lends strong support to the interpretation that 
Genesis 11:1-9 records the original migrations which resulted 
in the development of the first languages of the world. On the 
acceptance of this, we would theoretically be able to trace all the 
world's languages back to one original speech community. 

It has been pointed out that there is a marked parallel 
between Kulturkreis (a "culture circle" which is historically 
connected by sharing a number of cultural traits), migration, 
and linguistic genetic classification. 11 Such a parallel fits Genesis 
10 and 11 quite well. The Biblical revelation of "origins" stands 
to be complemented as intensive research continues in the yet 
undiscovered mounds of history. This is so because the Bible never 
suffers at the hand of true science (i.e., "Christian Science" in 
the sense that Dooyewerd and his followers use it) . In fact, true 
science can be a "demythologizer" of a different sort: it can 
explode the myth that the book of Genesis contains myth. 

' In the early 7th century Saint Isidore of Seville wrote in 
Etymologies, "The different languages are a result of the Tower of Babel 
and before that, there was a single language, Hebrew, both spoken and 
written by the Prophets and Patriarchs. . ." Mentioning Hebrew in his 
English Grammar which appeared in 1634, Charles Butler said it was 
•'the language of our great Grandfather Adam, (which until the confusion 
all people of the Earth did speak)..." The 19th century linguists, respon- 
sible for the great discovery of language during that period, punctured 
any further belief that Hebrew was the primogenitor of all languages by 
showing that it was impossible for Indo-European to have sprung from 

2 The Hebrew word sapJiah literally means "lip". Here is syneedo- 
chic referring to the employment of the lips in producing speech. The most 
basic meaning of dabhar is "word". Although the two appear to be synon- 
ymous, a basic difference in emphasis can be detected, 'ish debharim (lit. 
"a man of words") means "an eloquent man" because the emphasis is on 
the content of speech (Ex. 4:10). By way of contrast 'ish sephathayim 
(lit. "a man of lips") means "a mere talker" because the emphasis is on 
the speech act itself (Job 11:2). The former example might be a case of 
"language competence" while the latter is a case of "language perform- 


The choice of the RSV for "few words" in verse 1 is indeed unfortunate. 
One wonders if the translators were guided by a popular misconception 
that primative languages have limited vocabularies. 

3 Genesis 9:1. The Hebrew verb mil'u (Kal imperative, 2nd pers. 
pi.) is a command "to fill" and thus "inhabit" the whole earth. 

4 The classic example is Isaiah 61:1, 2 were both advents of Christ 
are depicted as being unbroken by time. 

5 Leonard Bloomfield, Language (New York: Holt, Rinehart and 
Winston, 1933), pp. 312-313. 

6 Cf. Winfred P. Lehmann, Historical Linguistics : An Introduction 
(New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1962), pp. 28-30: "Around 
2000 B.C. Greeks, or Hellenes, began southward invasion and in successive 
migrations gradually occupied the present area of Greece, the islands and 
adjoining areas in the Mediterranean, and the West coast of Asia Minor." 
Somewhat later Italic was brought into the Italian peninsula in a similar 
way. And the story could be repeated for other branches of the Indo- 
European family as well. 

7 Classifying languages, indicating the reconstructed proto-lan- 
guages and showing all the actual sub relationships, is a very complex and 
arduous task. To show what we mean, note the different possibilities of 
reconstruction and subrelationships of the four related languages A, B, C, 
and D (the asterisks before X, Y, and Z indicate proto-languages) : 

Three reconstructions: 


*Y- — ' 

One reconstruction: 


A B C D 

Taken from Henry M. Hoenigswald, Language Change and Linguistic 
Reconstruction (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, Phoenix Edition, 
1965), pp. 148-150. 


Bloomfield, Language, p. 305. 

FIG. 1 




Old Saxon 4 
Old High German 

9 Ibid., pp. 312-313. 

10 Lehman, Historical Linguistics, p. 41. 

11 Joseph H. Greenberg, Essays in Linguistics (Chicago: University 
of Chicago Press, Phoenix Edition, 1963), p. 73. 


A Study of Luke 14:26 

Jesus Calls His Disciples to 
A Life of Supreme Commitment 

Louis F. Gough 

"// any one comes to me 

and does not hate his own father and mother and wife 
and children and brothers and sisters 
and even his own life, 
he is not able to be my disciple." 

(Luke 14:26) 

JUST WHAT is Jesus saying here? On the surface he seems to 
be requiring men who would be disciples to despise relatives 
closest to them as a price to be paid for the privilege of disciple- 
ship. But the injunction, understood in this way, is out of charac- 
ter with Jesus and all that he taught as recorded in the gospels 
and with other sacred literature of both the Old and New 

Could he who took children in his arms and blessed them 
command fathers to hate their own sons and daughters ? He also 
had shown tenderness and respect for children in saying that for 
one to enter the kingdom of God, he must be "converted and be- 
come as little children" (Matt. 18:3). On another occasion Jesus 
had said : "Suffer little children to come to me and forbid them 
not, for of such is the kingdom of God" (Luke 18:16). 

It is also difficult to understand how Jesus could ask men 
to hate their wives and at the same time inspire Paul to write 
in the Ephesian Letter: "Husbands, love your wives as Christ 
also loved the church and gave himself for it" (5:25). In fact 
if Christ demanded of his followers that they hate, or detest, their 


wives, would he not be contradicting the basic principle of 
marital relations as divinely ordained in the beginning of the 
human race and as upheld by himself in his public ministry? 
"Male and female made he them. For this cause shall a man leave 
his father and mother and shall cleave to his wife ; and the two 
shall become one flesh. . . What therefore God has joined 
together, let not man put asunder" (Mark 10:6-9). 

If we are to connote detestation and feelings of extreme 
enmity towards others with the word "hate" as used by Jesus, 
do we not face extreme difficulty with his teachings as recorded 
in Matthew's Gospel? "You have heard that it was said, 'You 
shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, 
'Love you your enemies and pray for those who persecute you' " 
(Matt. 5:42-43). And how shall we harmonize the injunction 
"to hate" with a statement which is representative of the ethic 
of love as taught in the whole Bible and as given by an inspired 
disciple of Jesus? "Eveiy one who hates his brother is a mur- 
derer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding 
in him" (I John 3:15). 

Two final questions which might be raised at the surface 
of our text : Is it not true that to hate one's father and mother is 
to break the Fifth Commandment? And to "hate" one's "own 
life," is that not transgressing the second Great Commandment 
"You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Matt. 22:39)? 

In light of the whole body of Jesus' teachings the contra- 
dictions implied by these questions are not in keeping with his 
unity of thought and action displayed throughout the New Testa- 
ment. An absolute absence of disunity is evident in all of his 
actions and words when correctly interpreted and understood. 
A key to understanding Jesus' words may be here : As true of all 
great teachers, particularly of the Orient, Jesus did not intend 
that all of his teachings should be taken literally. One of the 
methods which he used was of the sort that his words would tend 
to seize the attention of his hearers and lead them into a search 
for the deep and rich meaning which was to be found below the 

Jesus often stated a principle in a startling way in the Use 
of a paradox or other figures of speech, leaving it up to his hear- 
ers to learn just what he was actually meaning to say. In com- 
menting upon the words of our text, Alfred Plummer and Norval 
Geldenhuys speak of the startling effect that Jesus' use of the 
word "hate" had upon his audience, and the effective learning 


process that was initiated. Geldenhuys in The New International 
Commentary on the New Testament observes : "Here Jesus, as he 
often did, utters the principle in a startling, categorical manner 
and leaves it to his hearers to find out in the light of His other 
pronouncements what the qualifications are to which His utter- 
ance is subordinated." 1 Perhaps Jesus utilized such a method as 
reported in our text. George Buttrick believes that Jesus executed 
the method excellently: "And hate not: the word repels. It is a 
staggering word. But then it was intended to be." 2 To be sure 
Jesus' words stagger us. But did he intend for his hearers to take 
them literally? Or did he allow for a figurative or idiomatic inter- 
pretation of his word in this text? Just what did he mean? And 
if the word "hate" should be qualified in the light of all his teach- 
ings and in other divine pronouncements found in Holy Scripture, 
what are those qualifications, and how should the whole text 
be interpreted? 

First, let us look at the word "to hate" as it is used in the 
Biblical literature. The Greek verb misein is used by Luke in our 
text. In most contexts it is translated accurately by the English 
verb "to hate" with the connotation "to detest," "to feel extreme 
enmity toward." The Hebrew word sane' and the Aramaic sena', 
the equivalents of misein are usually accurately translated by the 
English verb "to hate." However, there are contexts in which the 
Hebrew verb is more accurately translated "to love a person less 
in comparison to another person." In Genesis 29:30-31 we read: 
"And he (Jacob) went in also unto Rachel, and he loved (way ye' 
eliabd) also Rachel more than Leah. . . . And Yahweh saw that 
Leah was hated, (senu'ah) and he opened her womb." It is evi- 
dent here in light of the larger context covering the whole story 
of the lives of Jacob and his wives that he did not detest or feel 
strong enmity toward Leah; but more correctly, in comparison 
his love for Rachel was greater than it was for Leah. Rachel was 
his favorite wife. The implication that Leah was loved less in 
verse 30 is translated "hated" (senu'ah) in our English Bibles at 
verse 31. It is evident the verb in this latter instance should be 
translated idiomatically "loved less than." A similar use of the 
idiom is used in Deuteronomy 21 :15, where two wives are referred 
to as one loved and the other hated, which might be translated : 
"one favorite," and the other "second fiddle." The context goes on 
to relate that if the second-rate wife bears the first child, he 
should have first-born inheritance rights in spite of the father's 
attitude towards his wives. 


In Malachi 1 :2, 3 we have another instance of this idiom: 
"I loved (wa'ohabd) Jacob; but Esau I hated (sane'thi). It is 
not that God detested Esau and felt extreme enmity towards him. 
Rather, because Esau "despised, (felt contempt, or disregarded) 
(bazah) for his birthright" (Gen. 25:34), God turned to Jacob, 
who responded to the call of God to be a channel through whom 
God's holy purpose for his people could be realized. 

Furthermore, whenever the Greek verb misein in the 
LXX is used to translate the Hebrew verb sane' in a context 
which calls for the idiom, ?nisein should not be translated in the 
English "to hate" with the connotation to detest or to feel ex- 
treme enmity toward. For this reason Abbott-Smith in A Manual 
Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, 3rd edition, gives the 
definitions for misein: "to hate, (sometimes with modified sense 
of indifference or relative disregard for one thing in compar- 
ison to another— cf. Matt. 6:24; Luke 14:26; 16:13; John 12:25; 
Romans 9:13 (LXX)." Frederic Godet also accepts the latter, 
idiomatic definition: "The word hate in this passage (Luke 
14:26) is often interpreted in the sense of loving less."* 

J. A. Findlay in his commentary on Luke (The Abingdon 
Bible Commentary) is of the opinion that "the luite of verse 26 
(Lk. 14) goes back to an Aramaic word which means 'love 
less' so that Matthew 10:37, 38 is an accurate rendering of the 
meaning, if not of the actual words of Jesus" (ad loc). 

That Aramaic word, as referred to earlier in this study 
veiy possibly is sena'. Let us now look at this parallel passage in 
Matthew to observe how the First Evangelist reports the words 
of Jesus. 

Matthew in his gospel at 10:37 reports the words of Jesus 
in parallel with those given in Luke's gospel as follows: "He 
who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; 
and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of 
Me" (N.A.S.B.: N.T.) The Greek text reads: "Ho philon patera 
e metera huper erne ouk estin mou axios; kai ho philon huion e 
thugatera huper erne ouk estin mou axios." It is possible that 
the producer of the First Gospel translated the idiomatic 
Aramaic word which Jesus might have used into clear and 
simple Greek. Luke also could have executed his translation as 
validly but in a different manner, retaining the literary style 
very similar to the original. Since the Greek verb misein is 
capable of a double meaning (with the more harsh and quite 
obscure connotations as is the case with the Hebrew verb sane' 


and the Aramaic verb sena', Luke could have correctly employed 
misein and thereby preserved the paradox, which no doubt 
attended Jesus original speech. Thereby the striking force of 
the Master Teacher's style would be transmitted through the 
translation. H. K. Luce in his commentary on the Gospel of Luke 
characterized the rendering in the Third Gospel as "Luke's 
harsher version." 4 Luce is probably correct in observing that it 
is "no doubt more original" than the rendering in the First 
Gospel. A. R. C. Leaney is of the opinion that Luke has preserved 
in 14:26 "what seems to be the more original form of a saying 
which Matthew has adapted to a later time at 10:37." 5 

Since, however, a double meaning for the word "hate" 
in the English language is not used as it is in the case of the 
Biblical languages, the not-so-rich but more-easily-understood 
rendering of the original word of Jesus might best be given in 
a clear, and if necessary diffuse translation, in the English 
versions. A loss in richness and forcefulness of style is thereby 
sustained, but that is often the price that is paid for the other- 
wise convenience of a translation out of the original literature. 
Kenneth N. Taylor in The Living Gospels has followed this 
method with the translation : "... must love Me far more than 
he does his own father..." (Luke 14:26b). The Berkeley 
Version of the New Testament has it: "... without prizing far 
less dearly." Olaf M. Norlie in his The New Testament: A Neiv 
Translation had done well in rendering the text in understand- 
able English and at the same time preserving something of the 
paradox: ". . . and does not, in comparison, hate. . . ." In other 
words, the love which a person has for Jesus, if he wishes to be 
his disciple, must be so much greater than his love for the ones 
dearest to him, that by comparison the difference in intensity of 
love would be as great as that which exists between opposites — 
between love and hate. 

Finally, now that we have arrived at an understanding 
of the word "hate," what was Jesus saying as he is reported in 
Luke 1.4:26? Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. He had "set his 
face stedfastly" in that direction, knowing full well what would 
befall him there. Crucifixion awaited him. In his spirit he had 
already assumed the cross upon which he would be hung by "his 
own" whom he loved and whom he had come into the world to 
save. There were others of "his own" who would follow him to 
Jerusalem. They had left all to follow him. Jesus loved them; 
and knowing that he would have to depart from them "he loved 


them to the fullest measure." Jesus also knew that his disciples 
would go through an ordeal in Jerusalem that would try their 
very souls. It would be a cross for them — not to be equated with 
his cross, because the sins and burdens of the whole world would 
be put upon him. But the cross which the disciples would have 
to bear in Jerusalem while their beloved Master would be re- 
jected and killed ignominiously would be next to more than they 
could bear. And this would only be the beginning- of the crosses 
which they would be called on to bear down through life as they 
ventured to follow the Son of God, who was also "the Lamb of 
God slain from the foundation of the world." Being aware of 
the extreme demands which following him would place upon his 
disciples, and knowing that only total commitment in a life of 
full and complete submission to his will would enable his dis- 
ciples to persevere faithfully, Jesus called for undivided alle- 
giance on their part. 

This meant that all other allegiances and affections must 
be subordinated to the allegiance and devotion that the disciples 
would give their one supreme Master and Lord. His will would 
dominate their wills, even to the extent that should the solicita- 
tions of the dearest and closest relative come into conflict with 
loyalty to his Master, the disciple must take the latter course at 
the cost of separation from the loved one if needs be. He might 
be called upon to give up his very life in the pursuance of the 
Master's will for him. 

John C. Ryle explains the words of Jesus similarly : "He 
meant that those who follow Him must love Him with a deeper 
love even than their nearest and dearest connections, or their 
own lives. ... If the claims of our relatives and the claims of 
Christ come into collision, the claims of relatives must give way. 
We must choose rather to displease those we love most upon 
earth, than to displease Him who died for us on the cross." 5 
Erich Klostermann in his Das Lukasevangelium sees in this 
requirement for supreme allegiance a willingness on the part 
of the disciple to accept martyrdom. 7 George Buttrick recog- 
nized in this "instant and unqualified loyalty," demanded by 
Jesus "proof of his divine claim." 8 

For the extreme sacrifice which he called upon his 
followers to make, Jesus compensated with infinitely greater 
rewards. "Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house 
or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the 
kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times as much at 

this time, and in the age to come, eternal life" (Luke 18:29f, 

A final note in our exploration into the meaning of Luke 
14:26: Still another paradox is implicit in Jesus' demand that 
a disciple hate father, mother and other kinfolk. Even if we 
accept "to hate" (misein) in its obscure connotation, "to love 
less," we find that when Christ becomes the supreme object of 
our love, our capacity for love of relatives is increased in direct 
proportion to the enlargement of our love for Christ. The more 
we love him, the greater the capacity and the better the quality 
of our love for others; and at the same time the difference 
between our "first love" for Christ and that for all others which 
is subordinate to it, is best likened to the magnitude of differ- 
ence which obtains between two opposites, such as love and hate. 
In fact a man who does not first love God "with his whole heart" 
is very limited in his capacity to love others with a quality which 
is free from self-interestedness and possessiveness. 

George Buttrick gives expression to this paradoxical 
phenomenon: "Our human loyalties clash, and they become de- 
based unless they are unified and purified by a supreme devo- 
tion. . . . That strange word hate (as it was used by Jesus) is 
the one road to abiding love." 9 An eighteenth-century prayer of 
Bishop Joseph Butler quoted by Buttrick certainly is to the point : 
"Help us, by the due exercise of them (our affections), to im- 
prove to Perfection ; till all partial affection be lost in that entire 
universal one, and Thou, God, shalt be all in all." 10 

• l Norval Geldenhuys, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, The 
New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: 
Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1954), ad loc. 

2 George Arthur Buttrick, The Gospel According to St. Luke; 
Exposition Chapters 13-18, Vol. 8 of The Interpreter's Bible (12 Vol.: 
New York: Abingdon Press, 1952), ad loc. 

3 Frederick Godet, A Commentary on the Gospel of St. Luke, trans, 
by M. D. Cusin (Clark's Foreign Theological Library, 4th Series, Edin- 
burgh: T. & T. Clark, 1875), ad loc. 

4 H. K. Luce, The Gospel According to St. Luke (Cambridge Greek 
Testament, Cambridge: Univ. Press, 1933), ad loc. 

5 A. R. C. Leaney, A Commentary on the Gospel According to St. 
Luke (London: Adam and Claries Black, (c. 1958). ad loc. 


6 John Charles Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels for 
Family and Private Use; St. Luke, ninth ed. (London: William Hunt & 
Co., 1890), ad loc. 

7 Erich Klostermann, Das Lukasevangelium, Band II. 1 of 
Handbuch zuni Neuen Testament (Tubingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1919), ad loc 

s Buttrick, Ibid. 

9 Ibid. 

io Ibid. 


Christian Comprehensiveness 

D. Ray Heisey 

THE WRITER to the Hebrews develops one major argument 
throughout his epistle. His argument is this: There is a 
kind of tide drifting you away from Christ; therefore, be care- 
ful to keep on due course. 

In his analysis of this drift, the writer suggests at least 
four causes, one being formalism. The community to which he 
was writing, located probably near Rome, had been observing 
the forms of religion so long that the forms were becoming ends 
in themselves. Another cause was familiarity with religious 
facts. The community had grown sluggish ; they had made Jesus 
Christ dull. A third cause was a combination of persecution and 
disillusionment. A storm had snapped their moorings and they 
had dragged their anchors. Rome had reversed its position toward 
Christians and some were persecuted and some were losing heart 
and hope in regard to the parousia. A fourth cause was com- 
placency. Formalism, familiarity, and disappointment all tum- 
bled together. Spiritual stagnation was inevitable. The commun- 
ity had an arrested development of Christian faith. It was stay- 
ing static. 

I don't think I need to spend much time suggesting the 
contemporaneousness of this analysis of Hebrews for our relig- 
ious situation today. We hear no end of opinions about the state 
of Christianity and the organized church. It would appear, how- 
ever, that there are four major answers people are giving. I 
would like to examine these responses and then show how re- 
markably they correspond to the correctives which the writer 
to the Hebrews offered. 

First, there are the Christian radicals who say the church 
is sick and what it needs to do is to break with its theological 


past and its institutional life. 1 The spokesmen for this point of 
view are numerous. Let me cite four of the many who could be 
quoted. In 1963, J. A. T. Robinson's book HONEST TO GOD z 
called into question many of the basic assumptions which Chris- 
tians had held for years. "The first thing we must be ready to 
let go," he said, "is our image of God himself." The death of 
God theology became very popular. 

In 1965, Harvey Cox's THE SECULAR CITY claimed 
that "we must learn ... to speak of God in a secular fashion and 
find a non-religious interpretation of biblical concepts. It will 
do no good to cling to our religious versions of Christianity in 
the hope that one day religion will once again be back." It is 
disappearing forever, he said, and that means we can now let 
go and immerse ourselves "in the new world of the secular 
city." 3 

The next year, 1966, Joseph Fletcher published SITUA- 
TION ETHICS : THE NEW MORALITY. This book was called 
"racy," "blood-chilling," "a watershed in the history of moral 
theology," and "another example of the rebellion of fallen man 
against his creator." In any moral decision, Fletcher argued, 
the key question is: "What does God's love demand of me in 
this particular situation?" It was hailed as "a manifesto of in- 
dividual freedom and individual responsibility, elaborated with- 
in an ethic of love, which extricates modern man from rigid, 
archaic rules and codes." 4 

In 1967, Robert Jenson, in his book, A RELIGION 
AGAINST ITSELF, said that there seem to be more and more 
people who believe in Christ and yet wish there were some way 
of believing other than being religious. He called our supernat- 
uralism fradulent, and continued: 

The religious mimicry of our congregations, the rhetoric of our de- 
nominations, the theologies of our Sunday schools, the pseudo-divine 
personifications of our economic ideologies together with the bloody 
war-liturgies of their worship, the Sunday-morning- radio "Spark of 
the divine in every man," Sallman's Jesus and "My God and I" share 
one common feature: they all make one sick, and in exactly the same 
way that celluloid carnations and "lifetime" Christmas trees make one 
sick. They are unmistakably phony. 5 

The Radical Christianity response to the sickness of the 
church is similar to the response of student rebels in our colleges 
and universities. There is the growing conviction that the exist - 


ing institutions, as now constituted — whether the university, 
the church, or the political party — cannot effectively adapt to 
the urgent needs of the contemporary situation. The only alter- 
native is to abandon them. A matrix of frustration and anguish 
is producing a community committed to radical changes. 

A second way of responding to the diagnosis is this. The 
church is sick but what we need to do is not break with the past 
but go back to it — to the faith once delivered to the saints. We 
need to renounce the modern attempts to make Christ relevant 
and stop allowing the church to be shaped so much by the world's 
mold. Leon Sutch, pastor of the Epworth Methodist Church in 
Elgin, 111., puts it this way: 

On the theological right are those who would retreat into the past, 
by a resurgence of fundamentalism. Affronted by the church's involve- 
ment in civil rights, the war on poverty and peace movements, and 
afraid of the rapid change of events around them, many laymen find 
this retreat a near-perfect solution to their problems. It arouses warm 
memories of childhood, absolves them from responsibility for the world, 
reassures them that God is just where he was yesterday. 6 

In a recent book called, RELEVANCE: THE ROLE 
verson says, "Because humanity's problem is congenital — sin in 
the human heart — there is only one solution . . What is the an- 
swer to this broken world ? . . . The Bible answer, the intelligent 
answer, the one adequate answer, can be summed up in a word, 
'reconciliation' . . . Jesus Christ knew that war and death were 
due to a malignancy in the human heart which could be cured 
only by His own sacrifice on the cross. He entered history and 
determined a course that ultimately took him to the cross to 
solve this root problem once and for all — forever." 7 

A third way of responding to the sickness of the church is 
. . . the church isn't sick, the critics are simply using the wrong 
criteria for judging. 8 They tend to think of the church as merely 
one among all the other causes, institutions, and idealisms. When 
the word "cause" is used to describe Christianity, it reduces 
the church to everything else we think about as a cause. So, we 
are inclined to think, says Paul Holmer of Yale Divinity School, 
that the church too "lives by money, thrives with planning, pros- 
pers with clever and brainy people, needs widespread support 
to get its work done, and, above all, needs to progress and to 
change with the age." 9 


Most movements or causes can be judged by results. Are 
they accomplishing anything? Are Negroes in Alabama voting? 
Is open housing in Cleveland a reality? Is the war in Vietnam 
de-escalating? Is the draft law being changed? Are students 
being placed on faculty committees and given a voice in build- 
ing curriculum? These are legitimate questions for members of 
human causes designed to bring immediate results. 

But then we tend to use the results theory with the 
church. Are we growing numerically? How many new members 
did the church have last year? How much increase was there in 
the budget? Such questions mean we are thinking of the church 
as any other cause. It is like a business. There is, of course, a 
place for recognizing the similarities between the church and 
other institutions. But differences are much more important. 
Again, Paul Holmer says: 

The strangeness of the churches is safeguarded best when it is real- 
ized that one does not live so much for the harvest as one does for the 
quality of the sowing. To believe in God is to be able to conceive of the 
whole of life as a time of sowing, and reaping is left to others and even 
eternity and God. 

By itself, this willingness to postpone the harvest stretches the con- 
cept of cause all out of shape. The church is not one more cause on 
parity with others. Instead, it is the house and people of the Lord, 
a place and vocation for the people of Grid. But, it is always sowing, 
seldom reaping; always building, never done. One has to get used to 
thinking about it in its own terms, otherwise one is invariably thinking 
wrongly about it. 10 

You remember that when the 70 returned to Jesus with 
joy because they had achieved results in his name, he quickly 
corrected their distorted view. He said, "Don't rejoice about 
this, but rather because your names are written in heaven — be- 
cause you are in a new relationship." 

Now, of course, this new relationship will provide the 
motive for action and behavior appropriate to the new status. 
But the church is not a community that can be judged sick or 
healthy merely on the same terms as any other cause. 

There is a fourth way of responding to the sickness of 
the church. If the church is sick, don't despair, for the charac- 
teristic mode of the church's existence is death and resurrec- 
tion. 11 

Judaism was completed with the coming of Christianity. 
The old had to die that the new could live. The body of Jesus had 


to die that the spirit of Christ could live everywhere. Medieval 
Romanism was dying and the Reformed church grew out of it 
in new life. In our day we see evidence of dying taking place 
and newness of life coming forth. William A. Visser 't Hooft 
has written, "Again and again the Church needs to be protected 
against the downward pull of its own life by which it becomes 
an end in itself and ceases to be the obedient servant of its 
Lord." 12 

This view claims that the church as the body of Christ 
is called upon to suffer the same fate as the plvysical body of 
its Lord. 

It cannot be the aim of the church (says John Cantelon) to increase 
its community, its prestige or influence in the world; it must be the 
aim of the church to be obedient. God may increase the size of the 
church, or he may decrease it. In any case the church must live by 
the evangelical law that he who would save his life will lose it and 
he who loses his life for the sake of Christ will find it. This means 
that the church as well as the individual Christian, must expect to find 
renewal only when it learns to give life for the life of the world. 13 

Just as the church, at the veiy heart of its worship, is 
celebrating the death and resurrection of Christ, so the church 
at the very heart of its work, is practicing death and resurrec- 
tion in obedience to its Lord. If the church seems to be on the 
verge of a nervous breakdown, then maybe it is because some- 
thing we are holding on to needs to die. Perhaps a shakedown 
is in order. Perhaps one of the root causes is " the theological 
failure of the church to provide a Christian dynamic at the lay 
level." Where are the Keith Millers in our congregations? Is 
anyone out there in the pews getting "the taste of new wine"? 
Or are they serving on too many committees, planning too many 
programs, attending too many meetings, spending too much 
time keeping the wheels of the machinery moving? These are 
the questions raised legitimately by the fourth group of respon- 
dents. The rhythm of death and resurrection — this is the cycle 
of all life, the pattern of existence of all organic bodies, the very 
meaning of the church. 

The point being made here is that no one has a corner 
on the truth. There is a kernal of truth in each of the four an- 
swers we've considered. We need the comprehensiveness of 
Christ who "saved what was valuable in what he destroyed and 
destroyed nothing where it was desirable rather to fulfill than 


to destroy." 14 He was forever pulling surprises on those disciples 
who thought they had things figured out, who thought they knew 
the kind of kingdom he was building. I was talking with a pas- 
tor several weeks ago who said that he was the only "evangel- 
ical" in his town's ministerium. The others won't associate be- 
cause they don't approve of what the so-called liberals are doing. 

The reason people hold opposing views and beliefs is not 
so much that truth is absolute, but that truth takes different 
forms — there is ideal truth and then there is actual or empirical 
truth. Also, truth has a certain incomprehensibility about it — a 
quality of infinity. Can any man presume to think that his finite 
mind comprehends the infinity of God's truth? Then, too, per- 
sons themselves have different temperaments, tastes, interests, 
and impulses which cause opposing views. Also, language is re- 
strictive. It can only show one side of truth, by a figure or im- 
age. It cannot convey any truth whole or by literal embodiment. 
These are all important reasons why we have differing views 
of spiritual truth. 15 

If we can agree that no one has all the truth, the impor- 
tant question, it seems to me, is : Are we seeking to know the 
truth lodged in these opposing views? The comprehensive spirit 
ascends to a higher position and encompasses whatever truth 
makes the extremes sacred to their proponents. 

Paul's prayer for the Ephesians was that Christ should 
dwell in their hearts and that they should be so rooted in love 
that they would have the power to comprehend — that Greek 
word means to grasp, seize, take hold of — with all the people of 
God the breadth and length and height and depth of that love. 

I said that the writer's argument was that the Christian 
community was in danger of drifting away from Christ. This 
brings us to the correctives which the writer to the Hebrews 
offered. Observe that he didn't have just one simple antidote. 
He told those second generation Christians, who had drifted into 
religious formalism, that they needed to rediscover religion — or 
better yet — rediscover God for themselves. Religious forms, he 
said, don't have a hold over you. It seems to me, that at the heart 
of it, this is precisely what the Christian radicals are saying. 
Those in the conservative-evangelical tradition, I think, haven't 
taken the radicals seriously enough. They tend to write them off, 
saying, after all, anyone who would advocate that "God is dead" 
can't have anything to offer. But have we tried to see what they 


mean? We do need to break with certain accumulated trappings 
of religion. God does need to be interpreted in the thought pat- 
terns and language forms of the contemporary generation. God 
himself doesn't change, but our concepts of him, and of the ways 
He works, do. And if this interpretation is done seriously and 
authentically, Christians may find themselves staying more se- 
curely on due course. 

The writer to the Hebrews told those Christians in the 
second place that their overfamiliarity with religious facts could 
be corrected by re-exploring the wonders of their faith. He tried 
to show them the romance of doctrine. He described Jesus as the 
Brightness of God's glory and the express image of his person. 
The emphasis of Christian evangelicals on supernaturalism is 
a needed one. The secular Christians need to re-explore the excit- 
ing aspects of Bethlehem, calvary, and the rolled-away stone 
and their supernatural meanings if their emphasis is going to 
remain balanced. But if the Christian radical takes his here-and- 
now too seriously, I think the fundamentalist takes his doctrinal 
fundamentals too seriously at the expense of the here-and-now. 

For example, I think it's possible to oversimplify by say- 
ing, as Halverson does, that sin is the root of all the social ills 
and the world's problems. But remember that Jesus said of the 
blind man, "Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents : but 
that the works of God should be made manifest in him." 

The third cause of drifting — persecution and disillusion- 
ment — the writer says may be corrected by exercising patience 
and faith, believing that God is at work after all. This is the 
word of the Christian idealists in our day. The church, engaged 
in a time of sowing, is a different kind of community. When a 
pastor gets discouraged with results and is persecuted with an 
identity crisis, when parishioners wonder whether all their ef- 
forts are worth it, they need to remember that the church isn't 
just another cause. It is God at work. 

The fourth cause of drifting away — complacency — must 
be answered, says the writer, with an admonition to spiritual 
growth and maturity. There isn't any such thing as a "finished" 
Christian. Knowing Christ is not knowledge of a static kind. 
Here I see a correlation with the truth that the Christian renew- 
alists offer. They are saying that a fuller development neces- 
sarily involves renewal — renewal by the process of continuing 
death and resurrection . 


The responses to the condition of the church are varied, 
The writer to the Hebrews offered several which find their par- 
allel in our day. I ask in closing, Are our eyes open to seeing 
truth where we're not accustomed to seeing truth? Are our ears 
tuned to hearing truth when there is no instinct for hearing 
truth from that direction? 

Leaving the times and the seasons to God, looking beyond 
ourselves and our own religious and provincial boundaries, let 
us enlarge the freedom of our faith and the comprehensiveness 
of our spirit, becoming full-grown men, unto the measure of the 
stature of the fulness of Christ. 

1 Leon Sutch, "Essay on the Church," Reflections'. A Journal of 
Opinion at Yale Divinity School, 66 (January, 1969), 5. 

2 J. A. T. Robinson, Honest To God (Philadelphia, 1963). 

3 Harvey Cox, The Secular City (New York, 1965), p. 4. 

4 Joseph Fletcher, Situation Ethics: The New Morality (Phila- 
delphia, 1966), back cover. 

5 Robert Jenson, A Religion Against Itself (Richmond, 1967), 
pp. 13-14. 

6 Sutch, p. 5. 

7 Richard Halverson, Relevances: The Role of Christianity in 
the Twentieth Century (Waco, Texas, 1968), pp. 85, 46, 22-23. 

8 See Paul Holmer, "On Criticizing the Church," Reflection, 66 
(January, 1969). 

9 Ibid., p. 3. 
io Ibid. 

11 John Cantelon, A Protestant Approach to the Campus Ministry 
(Philadelphia, 1964), p. 109. 

12 Quoted in Cantelon, p. 109. 

13 Ibid., p. 110. 

14 Horace Bushnell, "Christian Comprehensiveness," in H. Shel- 
ton Smith (ed.), Horace Bushnell (New York, 1965), p. 109. This article 
by Bushnell supplied much of the impetus for the present discussion. 

15 See Bushnell, pp. 110 ff. 


Baxter Collection Added To 
Seminary Library 

James Houston Baxter and His Private Collection 

THE Ashland Theological Seminary Library has been enriched 
by the addition of more than four thousand volumes acquired 
from the private library of the recently retired Dr. James 
Houston Baxter, distinguished Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical 
History at the University of St. Andrews in Edinburgh. 

As the current world authority on St. Augustine, Dr. 
Baxter has collected not only the works of St. Augustine, but also 
numerous volumes written in the centuries since the time of the 
great churchman reflecting St. Augustine's influence on the 
Christian Church and world thought. The noted scholar has 
retained these works and plans to spend his remaining years 
compiling the definitive work on the great Christian figure. 

The works catalogued and placed on the shelves in the 
Ashland Seminary library show the wide interests of Dr. Baxter. 
These include a notable collection of works on church history 
encompassing extensive materials on Scottish history, both 
ecclesiastical and secular, the Reformation period in Great 
Britain and on the Continent, and representative works on 
Puritanism and Methodism. 

The collection obtained from Professor Baxter by the 
Seminary includes a large number of secular works. The Baxter 
materials reflect an extensive fascination for information on 
Poland. Among these are works on language, science, history, 
literature, and folk-lore in English and in several other lan- 
guages. The well-thumbed pages show that Dr. Baxter's library 
did not remain unused on his shelves. Indeed, the cataloguing 
of these materials was slowed by the temptation of the cataloguer 
to read the marginal comments of Dr. Baxter and his analyses 


and summaries of the content of volumes noted in English, 
French, Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. 

The scope of the scholarly interests of James Houston 
Baxter is reflected not only in his library, but also in the list of 
honors he has received and in his many scholarly projects. A 
few of these gleaned from the current edition of Who's Who 
include, along with medals and prizes in the classics and arts, 
the editorship of the New Dictionary of Medieval Latin, con- 
tributions to other dictionaries and encyclopedias, compilation of 
the index to the Scottish Historical Review, author of many 
periodical articles. He is a member of the Naples Academy, 
Associate member of the Royal Belgian Academy, the Royal 
Flemish Academy, the Societe de 1'Histoire du Protestantisme 
francais. He was on the Scottish Record Commission and the 
Scottish Dictionary Commission. From 1933 to 1939 he was in 
charge of excavating the Byzantine Imperial Palace at Istambul. 
Many of his books are complimentary copies sent to him by noted 
scholar-friends the world over. 

St. Andrews to Ashland Theological Seminary! The Sem- 
inary considers itself fortunate to incorporate these materials, 
the personal gatherings of a great scholar, into its rapidly ex- 
panding resources. 

Miss Agnes Ballantyne 
Library Cataloguer, Retired 




and Theological 

Ashland Theological Seminary 

Ashland, Ohio Spring 1971 



Winona Lake, Indiana 46590 

Ashland Theological Seminary 
Ashland, Ohio 


Spring, 1971 


Introduction to the Current Issue 

The Editor - - - - 2 

The Word and the Tables 

Charles F. Peiffer, Ph.D. - 3 

Who Is A Minister? 

George S. Spink, Ph.D. 7 

APPROACHES TO MINISTRY . . . Articles on a Theme 

Ministering to Mobile People 

Charles R. Munson, Ph.D. 15 

Institutional Ministries 

Ben Sorg, B.D. 19 

Counselling Ministries 

Jay G. Myers, B.D. 21 

Ministering to Students 

J. Thomas Grisso, Ph.D. ------ 24 

On Creative Ministry 

Owen H. Alderfer, Ph.D. 28 

» ^— i i 

Editorial Committee: Owen H. Alderfer, editor 

George S. Spink 
Joseph R. Shultz, Dean 

Vol. IV No. 1 

Published By Ashland Theological Seminary, Ashland, Ohio 44805 


Introduction to the Current Issue 

THE ISSUE of the Ashland Theological Bulletin presented 
here centers upon a theme of widespread interest and 
concern of the times, namely, Christian ministries in the current 
situation. The approach is both theological and practical as the 
various writers discuss facets of the concern. 

"The Word and the Tables" by Dr. Pfeiffer was the address 
at the occasion of the dedication of the new seminary apartment 
building in August of 1970. Dr. Pfeiffer presents a philosophy 
of Christian ministry calling the church to own the diverse 
aspects of its obligation to minister to the needs of men. 

The second article is from the hand of one who has experi- 
enced a variety of ministries including the urban pastorate, 
counselor to delinquents, and professor of Bible and religion in 
a liberal arts school. From these perspectives George Spink asks 
the question "Who is a Minister?" 

Five articles on a theme consider approaches to ministry in 
the seventies. These are statements from men representing a 
broad spectrum of experience over a large span of years. Each 
is writing from study and experience in the areas of his con- 
cerns. It is hoped that these articles will help the reader to 
develop a sympathetic understanding of various ministries and 
to consider the respective areas as potential callings in Christian 
ministering today. It is in no way implied that the five approach- 
es here presented cover the gamut of possibilities in Christian 
ministry. They are but representative. 

Owen H. Alderfer, Editor 

Contributors to this Issue 

Owen H. Alderfer is Professor of Church History at A. T. S. 

J. Thomas Grisso serves as Assistant Professor of Psychology at 
Ashland College. A trained psychological counselor, a part of his teaching 
load includes psychological counseling of students. 

Charles R. Munson is Professor of Practical Theology at A. T. S. For 
the past several years he has been personally involved in a ministry to 
campers near Loudonville, Ohio. 

Jay G. Myers has spent many years of his ministry as chaplain in state 
hospitals in Ohio. He was instrumental in helping shape the Pastoral 
Psychology and Counseling Program of A. T. S. now associated with 
Cleveland Psychiatric Center. He has served as director to a number of 
A. T. S. students in clinical training programs at Hawthorndon State 
Hospital near Cleveland. 

(continued on page 18) 

The Word and the Tables 

Charles F. Peiffer 

TN AN AGE which clamors for change, old problems have a way 
of recurring. In every age the church has had to determine its 
priorities. The preaching of the Word, and the response to hu- 
man physical need in the name of Christ, were and are necessary 
parts of every Christian witness. The Epistle of James reminds 
us that there were those in the earliest church whose response 
to the poor was, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled." Of such 
pious talk without the addition of a helping hand, James scorn- 
fully comments, "What does it profit?" (cf. James 2:14-17). 

As we meet the church in Acts 6 we find that there was 
concern for the poor — in this instance the widows — and that 
the apostles supervised the distribution of appropriate supplies. 
Problems arose, however, when two factions within the church 
exhibited partisan spirits. One group was Hellenistically 
oriented. These were Jews who had accepted the Greek language, 
mode of dress, and general cultural orientation. In modern term- 
inology we would say that they were westernized. 

The other group, called the Hebrews (Acts 6:1) had clung 
to the Aramaic language and the traditional Jewish usages. 
These were the descendants, spiritual if not physical, of 
the Jews who had suffered persecution because of their loyalty 
to the Jewish faith during the persecutions of Antiochus 
Epiphanes during the second century B.C. As a party they had 
little sympathy with those whom they regarded as traitors to 
the faith, compromisers with things Greek, hence foreign and 

The preaching of Christ was directed at all segments of the 
Jewish community, and we find both Hellenists and Hebrews 
taking their place in the Christian church. It is one of the glories 
of discipleship, that all sorts and conditions of men are called 
to take up a cross and follow Jesus. The fisherman and the tax 
collector, the zealot and the doubter are numbered among the 
disciples. Martha who served, and Mary who chose to sit at 
Jesus' feet and learn from Him had differing temperaments, but 
unquestioned love for the Savior. At its best the church ignores 
distinctions between circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, 
Scythian, bond and free men. All are one in Christ. 

Seldom, however, has that ideal been realized. The earliest 
church had the same human problems we have. It may be pop- 
ular for preachers to call us back to the Christianity of the first 
century, but honest students of the Bible and of history will 
realize that the fact of sin was as evident in that age as it is 
today. As the church grew, old rivalries asserted themselves. 
The Hellenistic party charged the Hebrews with neglecting the 
Hellenistic widows at the distribution of alms. Whether or not 
the charge was true we do not know. The fact that it was made 
suggests the presence of factionalism and the accusation of what 
we would call today discrimination. 

The response of the apostles to the charge may prove 
instructive to us in today's situation: "It is not right that we 
should give up preaching the Word of God to serve tables. There- 
fore, brethren, pick out from among you seven men of good 
repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint 
to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the 
ministry of the Word" (Acts 6:2-4). 

We must say to the credit of the apostles that they were 
ready to accept criticism. They made no attempt to excuse them- 
selves or to protest that they had not been guilty of the alleged 
negligence. If a problem existed they were ready to face it head 
on, and to attempt to find a solution. They were in positions of 
leadership, and they recognized the obligations of leadership. 

The apostles accepted without question the proposition that 
the church had an obligation to "serve tables." Jesus had fed 
the multitudes, even when his disciples were ready to send them 
away. He had shown compassion on the blind, the lame, the leper, 
the poor. His church could do no less than exhibit the mind of 
Christ when faced with human need. James' dictum is clear: 
"So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead" (Jas. 2:17). 

The church has often been accused of irrelevance. We must 
admit that the warning of James has not always been heeded. 
Christians may be so enamoured of Bible study that Bible prac- 
tice is neglected. Christian fellowship may be such a precious 
experience that we forget that Jesus was known as a friend to 
the publicans and sinners. 

Happily every age has produced Christians who have been 
genuinely concerned about the welfare of fellow humans. The 
emancipation of slaves, prison reform, improved labor conditions 
and kindred movements have been directed by such evangelical 
Christians as Wilberforce and Booth. A concern for the physical 

welfare of mankind is a mark of discipleship. The church must 
be willing to serve tables. 

Yet, faced with a growing church and multitudinous de- 
mands on their time, the apostles chose to delegate the serving 
of tables to others. The task was not menial. Those who serve 
tables must be men of good reputation, Spirit-filled, and known 
for their wisdom. The work is honorable, and well qualified 
people must do it, but the apostles sensed other needs. 

With a special sense of vocation, they said, "We will devote 
ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the Word." Here is 
an important principle which applies to every age. The church 
is concerned about the material welfare of mankind. Yet it is 
more than a society for human improvement. It is a spiritual 
entity with spiritual resources. Prayer and the study of God's 
Word are not luxuries which can be postponed until the pressing 
issues of the moment are resolved. Indeed the issues can never 
be resolved as long as men turn their backs on the Savior who 
bids the weary and heavy laden to come to him. If some have 
erred in assuming that all problems can be resolved on the basis 
of Christian faith, others have erred in assuming that man can 
live by bread alone. 

While we do not take to ourselves the title of apostle we 
do feel that the principle enunciated by the apostles is valid for 
every age. There must be some Christians who give themselves 
to prayer and the Word. It is the responsibility of the "pastors 
and teachers" (or "teaching pastors") of Ephesians 4:11-12, 
to equip the saints for the work of ministry. Ministry, service, is 
the work of all Christians. All are called upon to be spiritual 
activists. That activity, however, must be grounded in Cod's 
Revelation of Himself in Scripture. It must be energized by God 
through prayer. Prayer and the Word distinguish the concerned 
Christian from the secular activist. Sometimes both share a 
desire for common immediate goals. The secular activist sees 
human betterment as an end in itself, but the Christian labors 
among men with the glory of God as his ultimate aim. The Chris- 
tian does all that the secularist does to feed the hungry, clothe 
the naked, and otherwise show his concern for mankind. The 
added spiritual dimension, however, indicates that the Christian 
sees that man has basic needs beyond the physical. Man's fears, 
frustrations, and sense of sin need more than the aid of a social 
worker. They need the presence of one who has given himself to 
prayer and the Word. 

In many of our churches the pendulum has swung from a 
sterile spirit of introspection — a dead orthodoxy, if you please — 
to a heartfelt concern for the needs of all men. The racist, the 
exploiter, the polluter of the environment: they are the new 
Judases. Military involvement, the drug problem, urban blight 
and similar contemporary problems are the subjects of our ser- 
mons week after week. This proves, in contemporary jargon, that 
we are "with it." 

Has the pendulum swung too far? If we once had theology 
with no social concerns, are we now in danger of having social 
concerns with no theology? The secularist will rejoice in that 
tendency. He may even seek the ministry as a means of carrying 
forth his secularist program. Yet the Christian must object. 
Serve tables? Assuredly! Prayer? A part of Christian life and 
ministry. The Word? A lamp to our feet and a light to our path. 
It is not "either . . . or." It is "both . . . and." Acknowledge that 
there are some in the church whose mission is to "devote them- 
selves to prayer and to the ministry of the Word." Honor them 
for their labors, and pray that they may be a blessing and 
a source of instruction and strength. Acknowledge, too, that 
spiritual men must be at the forefront of the table-serving mis- 
sion. They are Christ's ministers, too. 

The church has been likened to a body with many members, 
each of which needs the other. Those whose prime concern is 
prayer and the Word will need the table servers to keep them 
alert to the needs of the world as it is, lest an "ivory tower" type 
of Christianity be produced. Those whose prime work is table 
serving will need the spiritual instruction and undergirding of 
well trained, spiritually motivated men of the Word who are 
apt to teach as well as ready to learn. Without both the Word and 
the tables the church is powerless and irrelevant. Only with both, 
each given its appropriate emphasis, can the church really serve 
as Christ's ambassadors to the world. 

Who Is A Minister? 

George S. Spink 

WHEN I ANNOUNCED my decision to leave the city church 
which I had served for ten years, many considered this 
act as "giving up the ministry." It did not matter to these people 
that I would be teaching the eternal truths of Christianity to 
young college students. What was uppermost in their minds 
was the all-too-narrow concept of the Christian ministry as 
being solely centered in the pastor - congregation relationship. 
1 begin with this incident in order to point to the need for Chris- 
tians to expand their concept of the term Christian "ministry." 
The tendency of the American mind to pigeonhole or label con- 
cepts as if they have only one mode of interpretation applies to 
the average churchman in his church relationships as well as 
other sectors of American life. Far too many understand the 
expression "Christian ministry" as referring to the profession- 
ally trained clergyman and nothing else. 

If one were to ask "Who is a minister?", in general 
the answer would involve the idea of anyone who is trained and 
authorized to carry out the spiritual functions of a church, con- 
duct worship, administer sacraments, preach and pastor a local 
congregation. It must be admitted that this idea is basically 
Christian and can be traced to the early church. 1 However, to 
limit the meaning of Christian ministry to this concept is to miss 
the larger concept of "ministry" also set forth in the New 
Testament. The Greek word for "ministry" is diakonia. It is 
significant that this term was in New Testament times the most 
favored way of referring not only to specific church workers 
but also to all those who professed to be followers of Christ ren- 
dering service in his name. 2 It is in this latter sense that Prot- 
estantism historically has used the expression "priesthood of all 
believers." 3 The New Testament refers to every believer in the 
generalized sense of his ministry under the terms saint, priest, 
and king. "All Christians," says Luther, "are truly of the spirit- 
ual estate, and there is no difference among them, save of office 
alone. As St. Paul says, we are all one body, though each member 
does its own work, to serve the others. This is because we have 
one baptism, one gospel, one faith, and are all Christians alike; 

for baptism, gospel and faith these alone make spiritual and 
Christian people." 4 This generalized idea of the ministry, apart 
from ordination to specific office in the church, places on every 
Christian a sacred responsibility to co-operate in the government 
and administration of the church ; it also places on every Chris- 
tian the responsibility of being useful to his fellow man accord- 
ing to his special gift. 5 A minister in this sense is, then, one who 
is obligated as a Christian to serve Christ by showing love, not 
only to his neighbor within the church, but also in the world at 
large whenever the opportunity arises. In the parable of the 
Good Samaritan, it was the lawyer who sought to justify his 
narrow view of religious obligation by asking "Who is my 
neighbor?", thus making his responsibilities under God center 
about himself and those he sought to define as neighbor. 6 But in 
the final analysis Jesus turns the question around placing the 
responsibility on the lawyer and his obligations to his fellow 
man; i.e., "to whom am I a neighbor?" 7 

This wider concept of a Christian as a minister to his neigh- 
bor reappeared again as an emphasis at the time of the Prot- 
estant Reformation. This was particularly true in writings that 
treated Christian vocation. It was a natural result of the abolish- 
ment of the medieval Catholic distinction between special reli- 
gious merit and dignity attached to the role of the clergy, and 
the inferior — though altogether necessary — function of ordinary 
lay Christians in the world. The Reformers taught that all voca- 
tions rank the same with God. None are more sacred, or more 
secular than others, no matter how they are esteemed by men. 
While it was admitted that some vocations are socially more in- 
fluential than others because of leadership positions, the 
difference between monk or magistrate and taylor or garbage 
collector is an "official" distinction only, implying no real 
difference in merit or dignity before God. Therefore, no individ- 
ual, whatever his work may be, has any necessity for forsaking 
the responsibilities of his Christian ministry in that work to go 
off on a crusade or to enter a monastery out of bad conscience 
about what he is now doing and under the illusion that he can be 
more Christian in his activities somewhere else. John Calvin in 
writing on the Christian as minister in regard to vocation de- 
clared, "The Lord commands every one of us, in all the actions 
of life to regard his vocation ... He has appointed to all their 
particular duties in different spheres of life . . . Every individ- 
ual's line of life ... is, as it were, a post assigned him by the 


Lord, that he may not wander about in uncertainty all his days." 8 
It is significant, therefore, that the early stages of the Reforma- 
tion expressed a clear understanding of the place and responsi- 
bility of the average Christian. 

A return to a study of the Primitive Church by the 
Reformers lead to a wholesome attitude of the concept of 
ministry. It was stressed that originally in the New Testament 
the term "laity" meant all of the people in the early Christian 
ministry; however, by the late sixteenth and early seventeenth 
centuries, the Protestant church began to stress a profession- 
alized ministry through ordination. It is significant that during 
this same period evangelical Pietism arose within the structures 
of the reformation churches. This movement insisted on a return 
to the concept of every Christian as a minister as taught in the 
New Testament and emphasized by the early Reformers. 
Evangelical Pietism sought to restore the idea of "office" in 
regard to the ordained ministry in contrast to the medieval con- 
cept of "merit." Unfortunately, the latter assumption won out 
and the rift widened so much so that even today the ordinary 
church member in most denominations seems still to miss the 
important fact that the nonministering Christian was non- 
existent in the early Christian movement. 9 

Attempts are now being made by many Christian move- 
ments to recover the idea of the Christian as a minister in all 
walks of life. The enthusiasm with which some successful 
attempts at its recovery have been received indicate the distance 
which Christianity has travelled from the idea of the ministering 
Christian apparent in the records of the Primitive Church. 10 
This assumption of the functions, which belong to the body of 
Christ as a whole, by the ordained minister has led historically 
to a two fold detriment of the lay ministry movement in the 
Christian church. In the first place, it tends to paralyze the 
activity of the ordinary members of the church, impeding their 
spiritual growth. Secondly, when the concept of lay ministry is 
restored in some form, it is overshadowed by our cultural con- 
cept of professional ministry. In this latter case many of the 
lay ministers tend to abandon the advantages of their lay 
vocation and status, either by joining the ranks of the paid ser- 
vants of the church or by assimilating, perhaps unconsciously, 
the manners and traditions of the professional ministry. This 
naturally kills creative imagination and often leads to inert 
stereotypes. 11 

This raises the question of relationships. What is to be the 
function of the "ordained" minister in regard to the lay 
minister? How is the ordained minister to view the goal of his 
ministry in relation to the lay Christian in the Church? 
Certainly it can be asserted in view of what has been said that 
one of the major functions of the ordained minister must be 
to discourage the traditional lay view of the ministry as belong- 
ing totally to the ordained clergyman, i.e., "let the preacher do 
it." This idea arising out of the clericalism of the past afflicted 
almost all congregations and has been a betrayal of the basic 
meaning of the Christian ministry. Therefore, it is not surpris- 
ing that far too many Christians do not see themselves as duty 
bound to a role of Christian "ministry." 12 

Many young people who might have been challenged to more 
meaningful lives of Christian ministries see little or no associa- 
tion between what they are doing or preparing to do in life and 
a call to be committed to the Christian ministry. What is needed 
is a greater emphasis on the Christian as a responsible minister 
in the world. Many young people need to be encouraged to serve 
Christ through the community by envisioning their ministry in 
terms of daily occupation. Certainly it can be pointed out that 
there are always more opportunities of giving effective service 
in one's career than would be likely to come if one were in the 
full-time service of a local church preoccupied with worship or 
"services." Thus there is obviously a need of a flexible strategy 
within the Christian camp as we face a world of rapid change. 
Without doubt, the concept of the ministry in the world on the 
part of every Christian must be stressed if the witness of 
Christianity is to be effective as the "light of the world" and the 
"salt of the earth." However, in the light of what has just been 
said, realism suggests that a professional clergy serving a 
neighborhood through its local church remains indispensable. 

The fact that there is a large number of able and sincere 
ordained men fulfilling their functions as pastors is one of the 
most hopeful factors in our present situation. If we can add to 
them increasing numbers of Christians who see all of life as a 
Christian vocation, our time may be one that contributes to 
future accomplishment and hope. The role of the ordained min- 
ister, in strengthening the generalized concept of the lay min- 
ister, will be successful only insofar as he can help to inspire 
the Christian laity to make religious life creative in service to 
God and neighbor. In this way the Christian community can 


purge itself of the idolatry of individualism and return to the 
primitive concept of the witnessing community. Gibbon in 
tracing the root cause of the rapid spread of Christianity in 
the hostile environment of the Roman Empire declares it to be 
the contagious ministry of all the Christians. He places primary 
emphasis on the fact that "it became the most sacred duty of 
a new convert to diffuse among his friends and relations the 
inestimable blessing which he had received." 13 John R. Mott in 
referring to the general effectiveness of one's consciousness of 
his ministry in the early church wrote, "Wherever the Christian 
disciples scattered, the evidences multiplied of Christianity as a 
leaven working quietly for the conversion of one household after 
another. It is this commending by life and word the reality and 
wonder-working of the Living Lord on the part of the rank and 
file of His disciples within the sphere of their daily calling that 
best explains the penetration of Roman society with the world 
conquering Gospel." 14 

It is this generalized concept of the ministry that must be 
recovered through stressing the "cooperative ministry" of the 
church, i.e., both professional ministers and non-professional 
ministers as Christians working towards a goal of greater 
involvement in the affairs of the twentieth century. The major 
success of Christianity in the first century arose from the influ- 
ence of a cooperative ministry within the church confronting 
the world. 15 A great part of our failure as twentieth century 
Christians has been to allow the sharing idea of the ministry 
giving rise to the witnessing community, to be dormant when the 
need has been apparent. Our downfall at this point has been to 
allow the Christian community to assume that it is a structure 
where few speak and the many simply listen. The result of this 
posture has been that the primary Christian observance of most 
people is that of listening to sermons or lessons with very little 
strategy to "go and do likewise." 

Further, we must overcome the twentieth century idea of 
"laissez faire" Christianity. While the Christian experience must 
begin with the individual it is by no means saying that it is in- 
dividualistic. "Laissez faire" doctrine producing individualism 
is one of the most subtle illusions than can invade the Christian 
community. It pictures man as not only the one who must decide 
moral issues on his own, but also as the source of the criteria 
by which all ideas of Christian "ministeries" are to be judged. 
Contrasted with this doctrine of individualism is the other subtle 


illusion that affects the ministry of the Christian within the 
church, viz. "collectivism." This illusion subordinates the indi- 
vidual to the group in such a way as to make him important only 
for the sake of the group. Some groups within the Christian 
camp operating under this illusion stress their differences from 
other Christians to such an extent that any Christian ministry 
involving another group is looked upon as betrayal. The evil 
results of both these illusions have been manifest in Christian 

In contrast to both these illusions, the idea of a Christian 
"cooperative ministry" abandons the false dichotomy of the 
individual and the group, generated by strict clericalism in fav- 
or of an organismic understanding of the Christian community. 
The individual Christian acting in the general sense of the term 
"minister" relates to the rest of the individuals in the group, each 
carrying on his particular ministry, but at the same time 
inescapably interdependent one part on the other. Moreover, just 
as a living organism is more than the sum of its parts, so a group 
of persons is more than the sum of the individuals who consti- 
tute it. Paul makes clear use of the organic image of a cooper- 
ative ministry in Romans chapter twelve where he describes 
the church as the "body of Christ." It is in this sense that the 
task of each member according to his ability, is to use his talents 
to promote the reconciliation of divergent elements within hu- 
man personality and among human beings. In this sense each 
member of the Christian community is expressing a corporate 
Christian ministry. 16 Furthermore, in this same sense, the 
Christian as a minister in the general sense must be inspired 
to see his task as similar to that which Jesus was fulfilling, i.e., 
to reconcile the world to God. 17 It is in this sense of a "sharing 
ministry" within and without the local church that Francis 
Schaeffer calls for a compassionate Christianity that is truly 
universal, relevant to all segments of society and all societies 
of the world. He writes, "The early Christian church cut across 
all lines which divided men — Jew and Greek, Greek and bar- 
barian, male and female ; . . . The observable and practical love 
in our days certainly should also without reservation cut across 
all such lines as language, nationalities, national frontiers, 
younger or older, colors of skin, education and economic levels 
. . . cultural differentiation, and the more traditional and less 
traditional forms of worship." 18 


What is implicit in the foregoing discussion should now be 
stated explicitly. First, if the Christian "ministry" as witness is 
to meet the challenge of the crisis of our time, there must be a 
greater emphasis placed on the generalized concept of every 
Christian as a minister according to his capabilities in and out- 
side the Christian community. This involves getting the Chris- 
tian to see his total life as sharing in the great ministry of recon- 
ciliation as set forth in the New Testament. Secondly, the gen- 
eralized concept of the ministry must not be understood as a 
denial of a place for professional training for the ministry. With- 
out competent evangelical leadership the generalized concept of 
the ministry would soon degenerate into sectarianism and all 
the evils associated with it. The major role of the trained min- 
ister in the latter part of this twentieth century must be to see 
that the Gospel is expressed primarily through the medium of 
discipleship as expressed in lay ministries. This means that there 
must be a return to the emphasis on Christian vocation as ex- 
pressed by the major leaders in the Reformation. In the third 
place, each Christian congregation must return to the concept 
of the "cooperative ministry" as set forth by Paul in his writings 
on the Church. 19 The idea of total responsibility for the Chris- 
tian community residing in the pastor or trained ministry must 
be scrapped. Without each Christian engaged in some form of 
ministry for the upbuilding of his fellow-Christian, whether 
trained clergy or layman, the whole corporate witness of the 
church is tragically weakened. In the fourth place, the whole 
idea of Christian service must be understood in terms of oppor- 
tunity when it arises. No segment of life, secular or sacred, must 
be viewed as of higher priority than any other. All barriers 
erected by man and his self-centered institutions must be sur- 
mounted when in the name of religion they seek to inhibit the 
practice of Christian love through various Christian ministries. 
Thus Christians are bound by Jesus' example, as set forth in 
the Gospels, of sticking as close as possible to human need in 
their ministries. This gives us no opportunity for confining the 
Christian ministry to professionals. It is only in this type of 
freedom from self-centered traditions, that new and imaginative 
forms of Christian ministries, under the Spirit, can arise within 
the context of each situation. Who is a minister? The Christian 
who is at hand when an opportunity arises, be he professional 
or lay-Christian. He is one who has come to realize that in the 
ministry of reconciliation through vocation, human need and 


man-made regulations are never to be compared except to the 
infinite advantage of the former. 

1 Niebuhr and Williams, The Ministry in Historical Perspective 
(New York: Harper and Brothers, 1956), p. 4. 

2Cf. Jn. 12:26; Lk. 22:24; Mt. 22:13; 23:11; Mk. 9:35; et. el. 

3 Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church (Grand Rapids: 
Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1910, second ed.), VII, pp. 24 6. 

*Ibid., p. 26. 

5Cf. Rom. 12:5-21; Eph. 4:8-13. 

6 The lawyer's question seeks to explain the meaning of neighbor 
as object of one's love; however, the emphasis of the story is, not on the 
man who fell among robbers, but on the Samaritan who showed practical 
mercy to him. It illustrates neighbor as subject engaged in ministry, rather 
than object receiving ministration. Cf. B.T.D. Smith, The Parables of the 
Synoptic Gospels (Cambridge: University Press, 1937), p. 182. 

7 Soren Kierkegaard, Works of Love (Princeton: Princeton 
University Press, 1946), p. 19. 

8 John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Translated 
from the Latin by John Allen (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1949), 
III, x, 6, p. 790. 

9 Cf. the classic work on this subject by Bishop J. B. Lightfoot, 
On the Christian Ministry (London: Macmillan and Company, Ltd. 1878), 
This important work is bound with Lightfoot's commentary on the Epistle 
to the Philippians. "The only priests under the Gospel," he writes, "desig- 
nated as such in the New Testament, are the saints, the members of the 
Christian brotherhood." 

10 Cf. Man's Disorder And God's Design, The Amsterdam Assembly 
Series, "The Church's Witness to God's Design" (New York: Harper and 
Brothers, n.d.), II, pp. 118-20. 

1 1 Ibid. 

12 John R. Mott, Liberating the Lay Forces of Christianity (New 
York: The Macmillan Company, 1932), p. 84. 

13 Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the\ 
Roman Empire (London: Methuen and Company, 1896), II, p. 7. 

i« John R. Mott, Op. Cit., p. 2f. 

15 Cf. Rom., 12:3-21. 

16 Louis W. Hodges and Harmon L. Smith, The Christian and His 
Decisions (New York: Abingdon Press, 1969), pp. 20-22. 

17 Cf. II Cor., 5:19. 

is Francis A. Schaeffer, The Church at the End of the Twentieth 
Century (Downer's Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1970), pp. 105-6. 

is Cf. Rom. 12 and 14. 


Articles on a Theme 

Ministering to Mobile People 

Charles R. Munson 

Consider these headlines: 

Camping fever strikes millions 

There may be a camper in your future 

Campers put gals in trucker's seat 

The Gospel goes to the marketplace 

Four-day work week seen on way for U.S. labor 

New concept — 7 days work 7 days off 

These headlines can not be ignored by the twentieth century 
church for they illustrate what the church is facing — either in 
gloom or in opportunity. 

Sylvia Porter, the well-known economist, says the shape of 
the future is to a four-day 30-hour week, or a four-day 40-hour 
work week. While the beginnings in these areas are small the 
trend is abundantly clear. Still a new venture is working with 
success, a seven day 70-hour work week with seven days vaca- 
tion following. Workers are pleased with it because it gives more 
time with the family and more time to travel. Add to these ideas 
the new long week end vacations. This year many will get at 
least seven or eight long weekends. Americans are getting more 
and more time to travel and they are doing it. 

There are approximately 45 million family campers in 
America, or about 18 million families, a typical family spending 
$25 to $30 dollars a day on the go. Last year $989 million dollars 
were spent by Americans for recreational vehicles such as travel 
trailers, tent trailers, truck campers and other motorized shel- 

ters. There are about 2.5 million of such vehicles registered with 
80 per cent of them travel trailers costing on the average — 
$2; 467. In addition approximately 700,000 tents were sold 
annually costing about $70 million dollars. 

These travelers are primarily dwellers of the suburbs, small 
cities and towns who own their homes and about 50% of them 
own two or more cars. They traveled to some 587,342 campsites 
in the U.S. and 92,699 campsites in Canada and to many more 
unregistered sites. 

What does all of this mean to the church? Think about these 
true illustrations : John approaches his pastor in April and says 
pastor, "Please do not get excited but I'll not likely see you again 
until November ; we are going to be in our travel trailer over the 
weekends until then." Take another example. Jim and Jill leave 
home immediately after work on Friday and travel some 25 or 
30 miles to a trailer where they stay until late Sunday evening, 
getting back home just in time for bed. They live each week for 
the weekend away from the city. These people in the illustrations 
are not at all unreligious or lacking in spiritual depth; they 
simply are part of the growing interest in travel and camping. 
Obviously there are many who are part of the mobile society 
who are unspiritual but many are not. The point is — both classes 
of people must be ministered to and the opportunities are many. 

Currently two attitudes prevail among church leaders — at 
the most three. The first attitude is to lament the fact that these 
people are not in church discharging their Christian responsi- 
bilities. Admittedly people on the move do create leadership prob- 
lems in the church. But lamenting will not cause them to sell 
their recreational equipment nor will it cause them to return to 
the "home" church for worship. The second attitude is one of 
growing awareness to the phenomenon. These are leaders who 
are just becoming aware of the fact that it is not possible to be- 
gin a church school year with a rally day in September, for 
example, because people are traveling and camping late into the 
fall and even into the winter. These leaders are coming to under- 
stand that they are not going to change the trend toward mo- 
bility and are beginning to think realistically about the options. 
The third group of leaders have faced the facts and have begun 
to provide worship services where the people are and in such a 
manner that people can attend freely. 

The leadership of the church must not allow itself to take 
the first position. Rather than lamenting over its mobile people 




to its 



E. Herbert Nygren 

Professor of Philosophy and Religion 

Taylor University 

Upland, Indiana 

Presented at Ashland Theological Seminary 

October, 1970 

under the sponsorship of the Elwood and Sarah Workman Missions 
Foundation through a gift providing an annual course of study in 
Christian Missions. This series of lectures by Dr. Nygren seeks to arti- 
culate the relevancy of the Christian faith as it confronts contemporary 
philosophical systems. 

The lectures are here made available to the Ashland Theological 
Seminary constituency for stimulation regarding the Christian faith and 
challenge to reflection regarding its reasonability in the contemporary 
intellectual climate. 

Positivism — The Epistemological Challenge 

THE INVESTIGATION into the origin and the nature of knowledge 
has its roots in the earliest writings of the ancient philosophers of 
Greece. The epistemological controversy between empiricism, always 
pointing to sense perception as the origin of ideas, and rationalism, always 
insisting that the mind contributes ideas not derived from sensory experi- 
ence, can be traced at least as far back as the Grecian Academy six cen- 
turies before Christ. Plato taught that reason can attain to the immutable, 
that the ideas of men are related to actually existing ideas which ultimately 
were not material or dependent upon sensory perception. Rene Descartes 
was later to comment: "I was delighted with mathematics because of the 
certainty of its demonstration and the evidence of its reasoning." 1 He 
concluded that whatever else one can doubt, one cannot doubt his process 
of doubt. 

Empiricism, on the other hand, had its roots more firmly fixed in the 
Aristotelian emphasis upon the sensory perception of the singular datum, 
rather than upon the universal idea. One can go back even prior to 
Aristotle and find in the writings of Democritus (5th century B.C.) a 
teaching that ultimate reality is to be found in one's sense experience. This 
reality, he taught, consisted of atoms moving in all directions in a void. 
These atoms, in turn, were believed irreductiible, indivisible, and quantita- 
tively characterized. They were neither created nor could they be destroyed. 
Two centuries later, Epicurus was to adopt and expand that Democratean 
cosmology of infinite atoms in an infinite void. He was convinced that the 
universe was not from nothing, but was at all times a transfer of pre- 
existing material. Man was construed to be just another product of natural 
sources with life simply the span bounded by birth and death. 

This method for the attainment of knowledge reached a climax in the 
writings of David Hume, who .radicalized sensory experience as the one 
source of human awareness. He insisted that the origin of all ideas was 
in sense perception. The mind, he was forced to conclude, was no more 
than a collection of perceptions. Auguste Comte, the nineteenth century 
writer of Positive Philosophy, was to systematize the implications of 
empiricism. He felt that he must reject all prior philosophy. Hie envisioned 
men passing through three stages: theological, metaphysical, and scientific. 
These he analogized by calling them respectively childhood, adolesence, and 
adulthood. In the theological stage, man explained the unknown as acts of 
fictitious beings, whose existence could not be confirmed. In the meta- 
physical stage, personalized agencies were abandoned in favor of essences, 
substances, a prioris. At his time, Comte boasted, the phenomena of experi- 
ences could be accepted as positive data. The scientific stage was at hand. 

Epistemology, then, is the study and the analysis of man's attempt 
to come to grips with reality, of his striving to reach the point in his intel- 
lectual development when he can say, with reasonable confidence, "I know;" 
"I am convinced;" "I believe." 

With this in mind, let us turn our attention to the Fourth Gospel. The 
writer had come to the firm conclusion that Jesus was the Christ, the Son 
of God. His purpose for recording the life and the teachings of Jesus was 
to persuade his readers to believe in Him also. Therefore, he readily admits 
his selectivity in the inclusion of material about Jesus. "Now Jesus did 
many other signs . . . which are not written in this book ; but these are 
written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ . . ." 2 

On the basis of these words, its seems a justifiable hypothesis to as- 
sume that John intentionally selected his data because of their potential 
convincing power over his readers. Why then did he include the story found 
in chapter nine? One needs to search for the epistemological reasons for 
its inclusion. 

We read that Jesus and his disciples pass a man who, according to the 
prior awareness of the disciples, had been blind since his birth. They attempt 

to engage Jesus in a theological discourse concerning the reason for his 
blindness. Convinced, as had been Job of old and his three friends, that all 
human suffering must be the result of sin, the disciples ask whether the 
man is being punished for his parents' sins or perchance for some ante- 
natal sin of which he himself might have been guilty. In his response, Jesus 
rejects their theorizing that sin on the part of anyone was the cause of 
man's blindness. 3 Moreover, he is unwilling to be engaged in lengthy debate, 
but turns immediately to the blind man. He makes clay out of spittle and 
dirt, places it upon the man's eyes, and says to him, "Go, wash in the pool 
of Siloam." Upon his return from the pool, the man's eyes possess the 
power of perception. 

This phenomenon led to an investigation by a group of the religious 
leaders of the day. Those who first attempted to evaluate the situation 
apparently had no hesitance in accepting the evidence that there indeed 
was a man who had been blind but now stood before them with eyes open 
to the light of the sun. It would seem that they were ready and willing 
to accept the testimony given by the man as indicative of some sort of a 
miraculous performance. A strange and mighty work had transpired in their 
midst. How was it to be explained? 

The leaders of this group began to reflect upon the teachings of 
Judaism which might be applied to this situation. In Judaism a miracle 
could be construed as an event in which one could discern the revelation 
of God. That norm of all Jewish religion, the Pentateuch, suggested that 
the miraculous was to be considered a sign or a wonder from God. But the 
Jews also saw in the miracle the possibility of outward evidence of the 
practice of magic and sorcery under the inspiration of strange and foreign 
divinities antagonistic to Yahweh. To the Jews magic in any form was 
forbidden; its practioners were put to death. The Scriptures associated 
sorcerers with the perverters of religion who practiced human sacrifice. 

This group of investigators also noted the fact that the miracle had 
occurred on the Sabbath; therefore, they reasoned, the performer of the 
miracle could not have come from God, or he would not have violated the 
law of the Sabbath. This man must be a sorcerer. 

This first group of investigators into the phenomenon was the counter- 
part of the epistemological rationalist. In the words of Gerhard Szczesny 
they were convinced that "only . . . rationally grounded intellectuality is 
able to find a secure point of departure for ventures in the . . . unknown." 4 
The truth of the matter was that the investigation of these "rationalists" 
was not open-minded or free from prejudice. Reinhold Niebuhr well des- 
cribes the weakness of such a position : "A careful scrutiny of the processes 
by which we arrive at this conclusion must lead to the conviction that the 
presupposition . . . was subtly involved in the reason by which we arrived 
at the conclusion." 5 Again, in the words of Michael Novak, "It is a mistake 
to think that . . . any . . . view of life is a conclusion to philosophic reason- 
ing; it is rather a horizon already determined by the starting place, the 
point at which one had decided ... to begin." 6 

The rationalism of these investigators began with the presupposition 
that a Sabbath violation (as defined by themselves) was antagonistic to 
the worship of Yahweh. Having observed that Jesus violated the Sabbath, 
they concluded that he must have been inspired and empowered not by 
Yahweh but by demons and was, in fact, a practitioner of sorcery deserv- 
ing death. 

Behind their reasoning was their conception of religion as an inheri- 
tance to be preserved, an inheritance of ceremony, ritual and dogma. To 
deviate even a little as a result of some new disclosure would have been 
to them as unthinkable as trying to change one's ancestry. On the ground 
of their speculation they were denying the possibility that God had in 
reality come in flesh. It was John Calvin who observed: "The restoration 
of sight to the blind man ought undoubtedly to have softened even the 
hearts of stone; or, at least, the Pharisees ought to have been struck with 
the novelty and greatness of the miracle, so as to remain in doubt . . . until 
they inquired if it were a divine work " 7 The author of the Fourth 

Gospel is implying that rationalism as a means for the discovery of truth 
does not always lead to belief in Jesus, for the one using that method is 
guilty of assuming hypotheses which bias his thinking. 

The text continues by suggesting that another investigation was con- 
ducted by the Religious Leaders. It appears that these investigations were 
skeptical about the truth of the whole incident. They refused to believe 
that a miracle had in fact occurred. David Hume wrote: "All probability, 
then, supposes an opposition of experiments and observations, where the 
one side is found the overbalance the other. . . ." So — "no testimony is suf- 
ficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its 
falsehoods would be more miraculous than the fact, which it endeavors to 
establish." Since a "miracle is a violation of the laws of nature: and as a 
firm and unalterable expei'ience has established these laws, the proof 
against a miracle, from the very nature of the fact, is as entire as any 
argument from experience can possibly be imagined." 8 

These religious investigators doubted that the man had really been 
blind. They suspected rather that a ruse was being perpetrated at their 
expense, that fraud or collusion was obviously present in the whole incident. 
These men, John would suggest, illustrate the empirically oriented. They 
insist that blind men don't see; the man standing before them is obviously 
in possession of his sight; therefore he must be guilty, along with Jesus, 
of perpetrating a plot to make them, the Pharisees, look foolish before the 

The twentieth century has marked the development of logical positivism 
and its daughter linguistic analysis. When logical positivism moves upon 
the scene, one sees the attempt to secularize Christianity, as the value of a 
religious affirmation is not conceptually significant. It is functionally sig- 
nificant if it is therapeutic, meeting a psychological need. Religious affir- 
mations are said not to be true, only helpful, for affirmations about the 
supernatural are not verifiable. 

The positivistic position goes like this: 

All cognitively meaningful language is either definitional or empirical 
in nature; no religious language is either definitional or empirical in 
nature; no religious language is cognitively meaningful. Such "method- 
ological assumptions constitute an unnecessarily thick smoke screen," writes 
Geddes McGregor.9 

According to the author of the Gospel, like their rationalist counter- 
parts, these investigators based their observations not upon the evidence 
alone but upon a prior commitment to an underlying metaphysical assump- 
tion along with an epistemological standpoint which was simply incompat- 
ible with the acceptance of the possibility that men born blind might gain 
their sight. Their hypothesis would have been : A miracle like that just does 
not happen, for never have we been confronted by one which was verifiable. 
"There is a certain arbitrariness about the criterion," suggests McGregor. 10 
The empiricist simply ruled out the possibility of any occurrence which 
could not be explained through sensory perception. They forgot that man 
cannot come to new knowledge unless he is willing to declare his preference 
for accuracy as opposed to personal interest in the outcome of the investi- 
gation. As an historian or a scientist per se one does not know if the pres- 
ence of the supernatural might be just such a new factor in the situation 
as might make an alteration not unacceptable but actually acceptable. As 
C. S. Lewis often suggested: Natural Law is true only when one considers 
"Nature uninterrupted." 11 

In passing, one might mention Rudolf Bultmann who has been con- 
cerned with the miraculous. He has classified the supernatural as mytho- 
logical. He has taught that the Biblical accounts of the supernatural do 
not give objective truth about God, but promote our self-understanding. 
This conclusion leads to a minimizing of the importance of the historical 
aspects of the life of Jesus. Bultmann emphasizes the Apostolic preaching 
and seems to make of little importance certain events, e.g. the resurrection. 
What matters, according to his view, is that this was a meaningful message 
proclaimed by the church. 


Edwin Lewis, some years ago in his Philosophy of Revelation, put it 
thus: To say that we will not accept until we have been made certain is 
as though a man in danger of drowning should refuse to grasp a 
rope thrown to him until he was assured it would bear his weight. He can 
prove the adequacy of the rope only by trusting himself to it." 12 

John Hick has described the dilemma of the empiricist: " . . .the ways 
in which we act and react within the circle of our immediate experiences 
depend upon our beliefs as to what lies beyond that circle. The emotional 
tone and color of our consciousness is finally determined by the basic 
'ground plan' of our system of beliefs." 13 Michael Novak further pinpoints 
the empirical weakness: "It is the knower who decided what he ac- 
cepts . . ," 14 It is like the story told of the psychiatrist who was confronted 
by a patient who was convinced that he was dead. Nothing the psychiatrist 
could say would alter the man's opinion of his state. The psychiatrist, seem- 
ingly in a burst of inspiration, turned to the man and asked, "Tell me, do 
dead men bleed?" "No!" responded the patient quickly. Suddenly the 
psychiatrist took hold of the patient's finger and pricked it with a pin. 
After recovering from the initial shock, the patient held his finger, watched 
it closely, and finally declared: "Well, what do you know, dead men bleed!" 

The first century "empiricist" refused to accept the possibility that a 
miracle had in fact occured. He joined his "rationalist" counterpart, and 
they cast out of their presence the man in question. Their slogan seems to 
have been: When in doubt, the best thing one can do is to destroy the 
evidence, thus avoiding clutter in the stage of inquiry. Or as a humorous 
anecdote puts it: "Don't bother me with the facts; my mind's already 
made up." 

Plato once commented that only if a teacher should be sent to him from 
the gods could he hope to reach beyond where his mind at last must stop. 

The Christian claim is that this wider knowledge has been disclosed 
in Jesus of Nazareth. The Christian Faith declares that there is more to 
existence than the correlations of the senses; there is more to truth than 
reason can comprehend. Alfred North Whitehead was to muse that when 
one understands all about the sun and all about the atmosphere and all 
about the rotation of the earth, one may still miss the radiance of the sunset. 

David Cairns wrote: "Assuredly, the assumption that the whole vast 
natural universe must be 'orderly' is seen to be an adventure of singular 
audacity when we think of the tiny little 'home-form of earth' which is our 
abode, and the enormous universe of which it is an infinitesimal fraction." 15 

The Fourth Evangelist then tells the reader that Jesus came upon the 
man and asked him: "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" He answered, 
"And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?" Jesus said to him, "You 
have seen him, and it is he who speaks to you." He said, "Lord, I believe." 

It becomes necessary now to return to the first encounter Jesus had 
with that man. It must be recalled that he had been blind from birth. Thus, 
visual perception of Jesus prior to that moment had not occurred. Moreover, 
there is no indication given in the text to indicate that he had any prior 
experience with Jesus before that singular confrontation involving the 
placing of clay on his eyes and speaking the strange words, "Go, wash." 
John seems to be saying: Had this man been inclined to the epistemological 
position of the rationalist, he would have demanded a full-fledged explana- 
tion of the reasons why these strange things were happening. Had he done 
so, he would have become quite convinced that it was foolishness. 

On the other hand, had this man been a thorough-going empiricist, he 
would have immediately considered the words of Jesus as meaningless, for 
never before had anyone heard of a man born blind having been given his 
sight. He would have insisted that there was no prior evidence to justify 
his responding to Jesus' words. This was not the case. He first believed 
Jesus, and then came back seeing. "I see nothing arrogant in the notion," 
penned Geddes McGregor, "that God might permit a man to discern him." 1 6 
The investigating Pharisees saw the man but refused to believe. The author 
of the Gospel is saying that there is a way to knowledge other than the 

way of rational procedure or empirical evidence. E. L. Mascall has sug- 
gested that intelligibility and not verifiability ought to be the base for 
knowledge, otherwise logic itself would not be demonstrable. He has sug- 
gested that the intellect not only reasons but also apprehends. One can 
discover; one can deduce; but one can also have truth disclosed to him. 
John Baillie has expressed it thus: When we say, "I know" we also say, 
"I am certain." Is this certainty based upon epistemological evidence or 
rational analysis the only certainty one has? This illustration was used 
by John Baillie: I know that an object was made by a particular manu- 
facturer; I believe that the giver of the gift acquired it honestly; I have 
equal certainty in both instances. The certainty of the Christian faith is 
more like the latter; to believe means to put faith in, and from this faith 
there comes immediate certainty. 17 

Contemporary relevance may be directed to modern man's infatuation 
with the methodology of science. As a result of the discoveries of science, 
man has been exposed to many things which he cannot understand — the 
galaxies of the heavens and the millions of light years separating man 
from the distant stars, the potential powers of the sub-microscopic electrons, 
the strange mutations in altering life on his own planet. The advances made 
in the fields of scientific endeavor have held modern man in awe. In such 
an age there has been the tendency to imply that the methods of science 
are the only valid means for the discovery of truth. This view, by its very 
definition, excludes that which cannot be brought to the test of empirical 
verification. Exclusive emphasis upon scientific methodology has con- 
structed a world of selected phenomena. The success of the scientist, writes 
Jacques Barzun, "blinds him and others to the fact that he began by assum- 
ing the conclusion which he now presents as having been found and 

Several other sentences from Barzun's writings are suggestive at 
this point: 

No scientist could survive half an hour outside his laboratory 
if he tried to apply his habitual tests to his common experience 
— analyzing, measuring, questioning such things as his neigh- 
bor's truthfulness, his tradesmen's honesty, his wife's fidelity. 
A man's relation with his family and friends would come to 
an abrupt end, his private pleasure would be destroyed, if he 
were even for a moment scientific about them. 18 

Karl Heim in his many writings has pointed out a basic flaw in the 
methodology of natural investigation. He says that it attempts to separate 
the object under investigation from the investigating subject. This, he 
argues, one cannot do and still have a thorough analysis of the situation. 
"When we leave out the subject," he has written, "we have not given a 
complete description of the state of affairs." 19 
He also says: 

As soon as I have discovered this new space, I knew from the 
very first moment that this space has not just come into being 
in the hour in which it has been disclosed to me. I know, on 
the contrary, . . . that I have always been in it, but that I have 
been living like a blind man who gropes his way along with a 
stick, in the midst of a heavenly landscape which is suffused 
with radiant sunshine, because he does not see .... Yet I 
know, from the very moment at which my eyes are opening to 
a new space, not only that I myself was always encompassed 
by this space, although I had hitherto been unaware of it, but 
also that all my fellow men, who are still stricken with blind- . 
ness and, who therefore regard me as a visionary, are them- 
selves standing in this space, just as I am, but that their eyes 
are still closed. 20 

Thus it was with the writer of the Fourth Gospel. There are times 
when "Believing is Seeing." For the blind man, belief in the words of Jesus 
led to his "coming back seeing." The epistemological implication is that 


at least on occasion, an experience of the heart may be brought about by 
revelation responded to by faith. Not to know God, not to know Jesus as 
the Christ, is a failure, not of the intellect, but of the heart. 

This method had its roots firmly implanted in the Sacred Scriptures 
of the Jews. Jeremiah, using the language of the prophetic spokesman for 
God, declared : "... I will make them knoiv . . . my power and my might, 
and they shall know that my name is the Lord." 21 Likewise, Ezekiel said, 
". . . they shall know my vengeance, says the Lord." 22 In a plaintive cry of 
sorrow at the lack of knowledge about God, Isaiah spoke these words: 
The ox knows its owner, 

and the ass its master's crib; 
but Israel does not know, 

my people does not understand.^ 

One knows God by experiencing Him and by recognizing that He is the 
doer of all things. 

To return to the account in the Fourth Gospel. The author used the 
Greek term pistis which has the general meaning of "to be persuaded 
of." It has, however, a further religious reference, namely, "the conviction 
and trust to which a man is impelled by a certain inner and high preroga- 
tive and law of his soul." 2 * It is further suggestive that in the phraseology 
used in Jesus' questioning of the man in their second confrontation we 
read pisteueis eis. Moulton calls attention to the fact that there is a 
distinction, though perhaps slight, between the use of the verb with the 
simple dative and with the preposition eis. Such a usage, Moulton has 
suggested, "recalls . . . the bringing of the soul into that mystical vision." 25 

When the man born blind was confronted by Jesus, he had an experi- 
ence of the heart which convinced him that there indeed was power, revela- 
tion from beyond. Why was this incident in the Fourth Gospel? It depicts 
a man who believed, without having seen. An inner confrontation caused 
him to believe. "Thus," writes John Hick, "the primary religious perception 
... is an apprehension of the divine presence within the believer's human 
experience." 26 Or in the words of Oscar Cullman, "A faith derived from 
things seen and nothing more is not time faith." 27 


1 Descartes, Rene, Discourse on Method. (The European Philosophies From 

Descartes to Nietsche, edited by Monroe Beardsley.) New York: 
Modern Library, 1960, p. 9. 

2 John 20:30,1. Revised Standard Version. (Other Scripture references are 

to the Fourth Gospel unless noted. It is not the intent of this paper 
to engage in the controversy over authorship of the Gospel. The 
name John is used simply for clarification. 

3 Cf. Barrett, C. K., The Gospel According to St. John. London: S.P.C.K. 

1955. There is a helpful discussion here on the problem of sin and 
blindness, p. 294, ff. 

4 Szczesny, Gerhard, The Future of Unbelief. New York: George Braziller, 

1961. p. 135. 

5 Niebuhr, Reinhold, "Religion and Action." The essay is in Science and 

Man, edited by Ruth Nanda Anshen. New York: Harcourt, Brace 
and Co., 1942. p. 45. 

6 Novak, Michael, Belief and Unbelief. New York: Macmillan, 1965. p. 60. 

7 Calvin, John, The Gospel of John. Philadelphia : Westminster, 1916. p. 87. 

8 Hume, David, Concerning Human Knoivledge, X, Part I. (The English 

Philosophies From Bacon to Mill, edited by Edwin A. Burtt.) New 
York: Modern Library, 1939, p. 654. 

9 McGregor, Geddes, God Beyond Doubt. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Co., 

1966. p. 42. 

o Ibid., p. 41. 

i Lewis, C. S., Miracles. New York: Macmillan, 1948. Especially chapters 
II and III for helpful analysis here. 

2 Lewis, Edwin, Philosophy of Revelation. New York: Harper and Broth- 
ers, 1940. 

J Hick, John, Faith and Knowledge. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 
1957. p. 25. 

^ Novak, Op. Cit., p. 98. 

5 Cairns, David, The Faith Tlutt Rebels. New York: Harper and Brothers, 

1954. p. 116. 

6 McGregor, Op. Cit., p. 48. 

7 Baillie, John, The Sense of the Presence of God. New York: Charles 

Scribner's Sons. 1962. Note especially chapter I, "Knowledge and 

8 Barzun, Jacques, Science: The Glorious Entertainment. New York: 

Harper and Row, 1964. pp. 89, 79. 

9 Heim, Karl, The Transformation of the Scientific World View. New 

York: Harper and Brothers, 1953. p. 55. 

2 Christian Faith and Natural Science. New York: Harper and Brothers, 

1953. p. 245. 

21 Jeremiah 16:21. 
22Ezekiel 25:14. 

23 Isaiah 1:3. 

24 Thayer, J. H., Greek-English Lexicon. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1953. 

2 5 Moulton, J. H. Grammar of New Testament Greek, Vol. I. Edinburgh: 
T. & T. Clark, 1957. p. 68. 

26 Hick, Op. Cit., p. 129. 

27 Cullmann, Early Christian Worship. London: SCM, 1959., p. 44. 

Existentialism — 
The Anthropological Challenge 

A DIFFICULT WORD to pronounce or to spell, existentialism is even 
more difficult to define. 1 This is true because there is a decided ab- 
sence of any absolute system of thought held by those who wish to be 
classified as existentialists. In fact, the whole existential movement has 
been one against system. In a sense, to define is to destroy. Over a period 
of several years this word has occasionally been associated with the "beard- 
ed Bohemian" with unkempt clothes, with the long-haired cafe singer 
plunking on an old guitar, with the "beatnik" poet reading his esoteric 
creations to coffee-drinking listeners. Existentialism has also been associat- 
ed with an atheistic movement centered in France, propelled by a brilliant 
one-time resistance-fighter turned essayist and dramatist, John Paul Sartre. 
Existentialism has further been associated with an attempt on the part 
of certain contemporary theologians to remake the Christian faith in terms 
of the culture in which we are now living. 

As a distinguishable movement, existentialism can be seen as emerging 
from the life and the writings of the melancholy Danish gad-fly, Soren 
Kierkegaard. With some amazing flashes of insight, he jibed and cajoled 
the church and the society of his day until his contemporaries resented 
him bitterly. It is just his pungent criticism and biting sarcasm which has 
led many of Kierkegaard's twentieth century disciples to arise and call him 
blessed. Existentialism is, in actuality, perhaps more a movement and an 
attitude than a system of thought and as such cannot be reduced to a set 
of tenets. It is a life of continuous questioning. Yet there are several 
characteristics which seem to be indicative of this expression of life. One 
general feature is an emphasis upon the individual and a hostility to all 
systems of thought. Existentialism seeks to exalt the personality and the 
personal experiences of the individual. In fact, it is this primacy of the 
existing individual that has suggested the name "existentialism." Each 
man is construed as his own point of intellectual departure. This is in 
sharp contrast to classical philosophy which tended to begin with abstract 
thinking. Sartre put it: ". . . first of all man exists, turns up, appears on the 
scene, and, only afterwards, defines himself." 2 For the existentialist, man 
is primarily what he is or what he is becoming by means of his own action. 
It is in his own search for truth and meaning that man is caught up and 

A second concomitant feature is the emphasis placed upon the absolute 
freedom of this individual man. It is emphasized that man alone, above all 
else, is a decision-making creature, blessed, or cursed, with the freedom to 
choose among a variety of possibilities in an absurd and mysterious exis- 
tence; to be truly human, man must accept this freedom and conquer the 
anxiety and despair that threatens him by commitment to a way of life. 
He .recognizes no authority beyond himself — past, present, or future. He 
repudiates any and all bodies of beliefs as having no validity in his life 
as he quickly rejects any particular code of morals. For the existentialist, 
morality is not so much conformity as it is creation. Man does not ask what 
he must do; man chooses what he wants to do. It is man himself who gives 
meaning to his own action. It is existential man's exercise of his freedom 
which makes his action right. In the Flies, Sartre has Orestes say, "Sud- 
denly freedom crashed down upon me and swept me off my feet. Nature 
sprang back, my youth went with the wind, and I knew myself alone, 
utterly alone in the midst of this well-meaning little universe. . . . And 
there was nothing left in heaven, no right or wrong, nor anyone to give 
me orders." 3 The emphasis is upon what is true for a person in a particular 

In .reality, then, man produces values. He does not accept them from 
without himself — regardless of the source. Man is not; he is becoming. 

That is to say, he is what he is not; he is not what he is. Thus one can see 
the nihilistic implications of Sartrian existentialism. One's existence is a 
striving to become, but a never reaching; it is a striving after an illusion, 
a search for a phantom; thus life is an encounter with nothingness. 

To exist in this absolute freedom means to exist "authentically," to 
exist as man. According to John Paul Sartre, there is no excuse for one's 
action to be found in his past; nor is there any justification to be discovered 
in the future. His only justification for his action is his choice to act. His 
words are illustrative of existential thinking: "We find no value or com- 
mands to turn to which legitimize our conduct." 4 The earlier words of Ger- 
hardt Lessing, words which influenced the thinking of Soren Kierkegaard, 
set the same idea before us: "If God held all truth in his right hand, and 
in his left hand the persistent sti-iving for truth . . . and should say, 
'Choose!' I should humbly bow before his left hand and say, 'Father, give 
thy gift. . . .' " 3 All a prion principles, all postulates of reason or truth, can 
thus be discarded. 

Perhaps it should be noted that it is the problem of understanding 
one's freedom that marks a point of sharp differentation in modern 
existentialism. The atheistic wing insists that the existing man's freedom 
can be attained only apart from any illusion of a supernatural God invented 
by the forgone ages as means of keeping man in bondage. Sartre would 
agree with Friedrich Nietsche that to accept God and do His will is actually 
to abandon freedom. It would not be sufficient to say that God gave man 
freedom, for this is implicit essentialism. Freedom demands seZ/-determin- 
ism. Any belief in God, from the perspective of a Sartre, is detrimental to 
human nature. It is, as he put it, "bad faith," a refusal to accept the fact 
of freedom. One who believes in God has fled from his responsibility. Thus, 
evil is not to be taken as estrangement from the living God; it is estrange- 
ment from one's self and what one can become. 

The religiously oriented wing of existentialism, however, places more 
emphasis upon the involvement of individual man with the "Ultimate 
Being" or "God" as indicative of freedom. This "Ultimate Being," for the 
existentialist, is very often described as the "Depth of our own being," 
which means that man's subjectivity is central. He finds "Ultimate Being" 
most meaningful by looking deeply into himself. 

Another related generalization of the existential movement is its em- 
phasis upon despair, anxiety, death. There seems to be a prevailing mood 
of pessimism, a mood which appears to be related to existentialism's under- 
standing of the human situation as one filled with contradictions which 
cannot be resolved. In the novel, Nausea, Sartre has Roquentin muse: to 
exist is to happen without reason. Everything is purposeless, this garden, 
this town, and myself. 6 

Existentialism's man, wrote Norman Greene, "must carve a slow and 
painful path through achievement toward a transcendent perfection which 
he will never reach." 7 "Indeed," Sartre has further suggested, for man 
"everything is permissible if God does not exist, and as a result man is 
forlorn, because neither within him nor without does he find anything to 
cling to." 8 There is no guide! This general mood of despair comes from 
existentialism's persistent emphasis upon man's corruption and his total 
incapacity for improvement. 

To be sure, Biblical writings antedate the contemporary existentialist 
movement. Yet, there are certain implications in Scripture which are rele- 
vant to this current intellectual mood of the day. 

In the writings of the Bible, there is a serious attempt to understand 
man in his personal existence. At a cursory glance, it might even appear as 
if the emphasis upon man as the solitary figure who stands condemned as 
a sinner as a result of Adam's sin and because of his own rebellion against 
God would give support to existentialism. A careful study, I believe, will 
refute such a tentative assumption. Let us see man as presented by the 
Biblical narrative and compare it to the anthropological assumptions made 
by existentialism. 


At the outset, it must be noticed that there is never an exaltation of 
the human personality as such. Human personality is incomplete apart 
from its own recognition of relationship to the Divine. The creation nar- 
rative distinctly describes man as dependent upon his creator. To be 
created in the image of God is to be contingent, and to be dependent upon 
that over and beyond. 

John Wesley suggested that the Scriptures describe man as being in 
a "state of sleep." "He is in gross, stupid ignorance of whatever he is most 
concerned to know."9 In man's natural state it is not possible for man to 
know anything, especially himself. For this reason a Biblical consideration 
of man cannot be primarily a purely subjective study. Rather, it must be 
an awareness of the fact that man is what he is because God said, "Let 
us make man in our image." Yes, man is a solitary creature, but his solitari- 
ness is meaningless apart from a relation to his creator. Biblically, the 
proper understanding of man begins with an understanding of his rela- 
tionship to God, for apart from God man is nothing, accomplishes nothing, 
and arrives at nothing. 

Paul Scherer puts it: "For 400 years and more, ever since the dawn 
of modern history in the Renaissance, man has struggled to know himself 
as man — it is almost impossible to assess the gains that have come by way 
of that struggle — only to have such catastrophe overtake him at last as 
would seem once and for all to underscore the fact that he cannot even 
know himself as man unless he knows himself under God. Where there is 
no God, there is no man." 10 

D.r. Mack B. Stokes, in addressing himself to existentialism's emphasis 
upon man's subjective existence said: The nontheistic existentialist is "like 
a man trying to make his way upstream on a worm-eaten, water-logged 
raft. ... As he paddles the clumsy craft, his face is set against the currents 
and the wind. No matter how much he struggles, he makes no headway." 1 1 

If one were to attempt to begin with man's subjectivity, one could 
not really do so, for apart from God man cannot understand who or what 
he really is. Words of Wesley may again be used in referring to Biblical 
man: "What a fool, what a blockhead, what a madman is he that forgets 
the very end of his creation." 12 Full self-realization is not possible apart 
from God. In fact, there can be no seZ/-realization ; there can be, in reality, 
only the realization that one was made like God and needs to have that 
image restored. Man does not find himself until he finds God. 

This means, then, that since one is not able to begin in his own sub- 
jectivity, he needs another fulcrum. This point of departure must be the 
historic Jesus of Nazareth. Without the Christ of history any existential 
brooding or subjective analysis would be a futile venture, devoid of mean- 
ing. Jesus was God's entry upon the stage of human history, "veiled in 

Matthew's Gospel records a series of some ten miracles. Every con- 
ceivable type of human malady is represented; every conceivable type of 
person is represented. In each instance, Jesus entered upon an apparently 
hopeless situation and life once again took on meaning. In the midst of 
that series one miracle in particular stands out. It is the one describing the 
bringing of the paralytic to Jesus by the friends who were forced to pry 
open the roof in order to gain admission for their friend. Presumably, the 
paralytic's reason for wanting to be brought to Jesus was that he might 
be healed. Strange, was it not? Jesus did not heal him at once as he had 
others. Instead, he said: "My son, your sins are forgiven." This gave rise, 
to a discussion between some of the observers who, in effect, said: Who 
does He think He is, God? Only God can forgive sin. Jesus then made the 
comment: Which is easier to say. Your sins are forgiven, or to say Rise 
and walk? He turned to the man and said, Rise take your bed and walk." 
I have a suspicion that what Jesus was saying to the man was: What are 
you doing lying there? Go home. In effect, the forgiveness of his sins was 
what that man really needed, although he had thought that it was a physical 
malady which had enslaved him. 


That is to say: He knew his "real" self only after contact with Jesus. 

Contemporary existentialism suggests that man's importance is his 
being, his existence here and now. This being true, it follows that man's 
religious life, what he experiences, is not necessarily related to the historical 
career of Jesus. Thus it is that for many subjectively inclined existentialists 
the Gospel record was written to present not so much the life of Jesus as 
to reveal the experiences of his followers. With such an understanding 
of the New Testament record, who Jesus was must be forever shrouded 
by the pall of the unknown and the unknowable. Many existentially-oriented 
theologians suggest that to speak of Jesus with any degree of historic cer- 
tainty or demonstrable reality is totally irrelevant to contemporary man, 
for what happens to us "religiously" may very well happen apart from 
Jesus by virtue of God's perpetual saving concern which is merely illus- 
trated in Jesus. 

Existentialism emphasizes the confrontation of an individual in his 
subjectivity with "The Biblical message" rather than with the truth of an 
historical entity. There is no acceptance that the preaching of the New 
Testament Church had its foundation in fact, in the One Who lived and 
died and rose again according to the Scriptures. For the Christian faith 
it was the historic Jesus Who gave meaning to man, and not man's re- 
ligious experience which gave meaning to Jesus' life and ministry. 

Concerning existentialism's second emphasis — human freedom, one 
might assume that the Biblical stress upon man's personal responsibility 
has existential overtones. For, after all, does not the creation narrative 
tell us that man had a will, and does not a will imply freedom? The freedom 
which the New Testament — especially St. Paul in his Galatian Letter — 
espouses, however, is not a freedom to do as one pleases. There is no justifi- 
cation for any suggestion that St. Paul was an antinomian, having thrown 
over any firmly established moral order in order to ascribe freedom to man. 
On the contrary, throughout his entire life he was adamant in preaching 
that there were objective rights and wrongs, that it was not just man's 
idea which made for moral correctness. John Wesley forcefully declared: 
"It is a spokesman for Satan who 'speakest evil of the law.'" 13 

The Christian Faith from the Apostolic period has persistently taught 
that there was a difference between right and wrong, that man's freedom 
did not mean a freedom to ignore this distinction according to his own 
whim or fancy. On the contrary, the Biblical word to a century which 
seemingly has lost control of itself would be a challenge to return to abso- 
lutes. There is no doubt that Paul would say without equivocation: Adultery 
is wrong; sedition is wrong; drunkenness is wrong. They are wrong, he 
would have argued, because there is a fundamental difference between 
divine commandment and human exercise. Man himself had not the capacity 
to determine for himself what was right and wrong. 

Another aspect of Biblical teaching relevant to his approach to man's 
freedom is on advocacy of the "disciplined life." One could use Wesley's 
adoption of the name "Methodist" for his societies as a suggestion of a 
disciplined life. His Oxford "Holy Club" was comprised of young discip- 
lined men who denied themselves — not ascetically, but majestically — for 
the glory of God. His own strictly regulated day which began at four or 
five o'clock in the morning set Wesley himself in sharp contrast to many 
men of his time. Nor did Wesley cease his stern moralizing following his 
Aldersgate experience. The rules drawn up in 1739 for his "Societies" con- 
tinued to remain in effect. Throughout his life, Wesley practiced and taught 
others definite rules of life. His reason was suggested in his sermon, "Jus- 
tification by Faith," he said, "To man . . . God gave perfect law, to which 
he required full and perfect obedience." 14 

Thus it may be said that true morality is related to one's faith in 
Christ. Apart from that faith there can be no true morality, for the unre- 
deemed man is incapable of good. On the other hand, no man who calls him- 
self a lover of God could dare to say that he is free from restraint. One 
who believes that as a Christian he has suddenly been set free from all 
objective restraint is a child of the devil. 


Paul would hold no quarter for any theory which might suggest that 
only in man's desire for freedom from restraint and in his renunciation 
of accepted standards is he truly free. Such teaching, he would contend, 
separates religion and morality. True freedom is rather a voluntary bond- 
age to that which is greater than oneself. Paul identified himself as the 
servant of Christ. 

Concerning the third generalization of contemporary existentialism: 
How right existentialism is to proclaim this a world of despair. It is — with- 
out God. What a day this becomes for the proclamation of the Gospel! For 
the Christian Faith, man's life is not ultimately futile, for man can rise 
into a state of joy. This is indicated by Jesus' presentation of what should 
be Christianity's fundamental teaching regarding the "New Birth." In 
fact, emphasis upon the conversion experience sounds a resounding "no" 
to gloom and despair as the end of man's life. 

Biblical teaching on the New Birth as indicative of his hopeful outlook 
on man's future was persistent emphasis upon what came to be called God- 
like living. The most awesome, fearful words of Jesus are, "Be ye holy 
as your Father in Heaven is Holy." 

Many volumes have been written in attempts to delineate what Meth- 
odism's Founder meant by Christian Perfection. Often it seems that he 
was far from being as precise at this point as we would have liked. There 
are, nevertheless, several features about this teaching which may be 
enumerated. He does make clear, first of all, by saying what he does not 
mean. Christian Perfection, he suggested, is not to be equated with perfect 
freedom from ignorance, mistakes, infirmities, or temptation. 1 5 In addition 
to this negative description, it seems possible to suggest two positive 
approaches toward an understanding of Wesley's Perfection. Foremost is 
the frequent emphasis upon love. By Christian Perfection, Wesley himself 

declared, "I mean 'perfect love' or the loving God with all our heart " 16 

Perhaps his words addressed to his brother Charles are also suggestive. 
Here he defined Christian Perfection as the "humble, gentle, patient love 
of God and man ruling ... the whole heart." 17 In his tract, Christian Per- 
fection, he sought to elucidate his meaning of the title as "that love of God 
and our neighbor which implies deliverance from all sin." 18 

These words suggest another emphasis by Wesley. He understood 
Christian Perfection as the expulsion of sin, both inward and outward, from 
the heart of man. It meant that man's heart has been "purified . . . from 
envy, malice, wrath, and evei'y unkind temper;" 19 it meant that man could 
walk as Christ walked and be holy even as the God Who called him was 
Holy. Wesley expressed himself clearly by stating that Christian Perfection 
is "that habitual disposition of the soul which in the sacred writings is 
termed holiness and which directly implies being cleansed from sin. . . ." 20 

The late W. E. Sangster of British Methodism has contributed the 
following summary of Wesleyan teaching on Christian Perfection. "It is 
indwelling love, banishing all conscious sin, received by faith in an instant, 
and maintained from moment to moment by humble dependence on God. It 
is aware of itself, attainable in this life, and yet ascetically detached from 
the normal life of men." 21 

Whatever else this Wesleyan doctrine of Christian Perfection might 
mean, one certain implication is involved in its indication of Wesley's high 
regard for the potential of man by the help of God. Man does have a mean- 
ingful future toward which to press in anticipation that arrival is a real 
possibility. It is little wonder that in contrast to Wesleyan hope and joy, 
existentialism's man has been described by Dr. Mack Stokes as "an 
estranged creature whistling in the dark." 22 Consider John Paul Sartre's 
drama, "No Exit." Three characters appear. They are assigned to a room 
for "eternity." This is their "hell," to be shut up together, to torture each 
other with their confessions, their accusations. There is no exit, no possible 
escape from these torments of life which constitutes what hell is. There is 
no possible forgiveness, no possible eradication of their dismal pasts. Life 
is nothing more than a torment for possessor and for antagonist. 


For John Wesley, God provided man the victory over despair. The be- 
liever in Christ may know here and now the joy of the transformed life. 
Nor are there any limits as to what Divine grace can do for and in a human 
life. To fully understand oneself, for Wesley, meant a recognition of what 
one could become as the result of his confrontation with the Christ whose 
actual life and death is relevant for modem existence. 


1 Sections of this essay originally appeared as "Wesley's Answer to 

Existentialism." Permission to reprint from the Christian Advo- 
cate, February 11, 1965, Copyright 1965, by the Methodist Publish- 
ing House, has graciously been granted. 

2 Sartre, Jean Paul, Existentialism and Human Emotions. (New York: 

Philosophical Library,) 1957, p. 15. 

3 Sartre, Jean Paul, No Exit and Three Other Plays. (Act. IV.) (New 

York: Vintage Books, 1946, p. 122.) 

4 Sartre, Jean Paul, Existentialism and Human Emotions. (New York: 

Philosophical Library,) 1957, p. 23. 

5 Quoted by Kierkegaard, Soren, Concluding Unscientific Postscript, 

(Translated by David F. Swenson, completed by Walter Lawrie.) 
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1941, p. 97. 

6 Sartre, Jean Paul, Nausea. (Translated by Lloyd Alexander.) New York: 
New Directions Books, p. 170. 

7 Green, Norman, Jean Paul Sartre, The Existential Ethic. Ann Arbor: 

University of Michigan Press, 1963, p. 72. 

8 Sartre, Jean Paul, Existentialism and Human Emotions. (New York: 

Philosophical Library,) 1957, p. 23. 

9 Wesley, John, Sermons: The Spirit of Bondage and Adoption." Standard 

Edition, Vol. I, p. 181. 

Scherer, Paul, Love is a Spendthrift. (New York: Harper, 1961.) p. 15. 

i Stokes, Mack B., The Epic Revelation. New York: McGraw Hill, 1961, 
p. 107. 

2 Wesley, John, Letters, Standard Edition, Vol. V, pp. 336, 7. 

3 Wesley, John, "The Origin, Nature, Property and Use of the Law," Vol. 

II, p. 42. 

4 Wesley, John, Sermons : "Justification by Faith." Standard Edition, Vol. 

I, p. 116. 

5 Ibid., "Christian Perfection," Standard Edition, Vol. II, p. 152. 

6 Loc. Cit. 

7 Op. Cit., Letters, Vol. V., p. 38. 

8 Ibid., p. 53. 

9 Wesley, John, Christian Perfection, p. 13. 
20 Ibid., p. 5. 

2i Sangster, W. E., Unpublished Sermon. 
22 Stokes, Op. Cit., p. 109. 


Secularism — The Theological Challenge 

EMIL BRUNNER, some years ago, in his book Revelation and Reason 
wrote: "The most characteristic element of the present age, and that 
which distinguishes it ... is the almost complete disappearance of the sense 
of transcendence, and the consciousness of revelation." 1 

The disappearance of transcendence — this can take us in either of two 
directions: the total abandonment of God in favor of a secular society or 
the total involvement of God xoithin the secular society. 

The former — the abandonment of God in favor of the secular conceded 
to the physical world the right to exert a controlling force over life. Several 
distinguishable corollaries are illustrative of this mood. There is a persis- 
tent appeal to physical accomplishments, minimizing or even neglecting 
human needs and values. Very often this implies the organization of per- 
sonal and social life apart from any type of spiritual values. The thorough- 
going secularist operates as if there is no supernatural God whose existence 
would make any difference to life on this planet. It denies any validity to 
words and deeds not dealing with the objects which can be measured. 

An illustration is the general attitude of twentieth-century man as he 
stands aghast at the towering buildings, the arching hridges, the stretching 
highways, declaring that here indeed is the strength of the nation. (Indeed, 
it might be said that such a secular emphasis can be found even within the 
church as it tends to glory in architecture and stone, in statistics and charts, 
while neglecting the weightier matters of human lives.) 

Another general feature of Godless secularism is an emphasis upon 
the pleasures of life. Such a hedonistic trend makes possession of the "finer 
things of life" the major criterion for happiness. It implies a measurement 
by virtue of the significance to the self. This subtle suggestion often comes 
deluging its way into the homes of the modern world often by means of 
television and radio. Through the voices of the announcers come the claims 
that the "good life" requires a newer and better automobile, more and 
finer electric appliances, or more expensive decorative jewelry. 

A further illustration of pervading secularism is an exceedingly high 
regard for the accomplishments of scientific inquiry. There is a tendency 
to believe that because the physicist has produced rockets capable of pro- 
pelling capsules into space, and the medical technician has prepared anti- 
biotics capable of speeding the cure of infections, science is potentially 
capable of producing all that human life needs for survival. This prevailing 
thought has been referred to as "scientism," the near veneration given by 
modern man to the advancement of human knowledge. When the secularist 
looks at the accomplishments of science, he often believes that the advanc- 
ing human knowledge has rendered the Christian religion untenable. Thus, 
he looks at the teachings of Jesus and the Church as anachronistic in the 
modern world of space and atomic fission. Accomplishments resulting from 
scientific inquiry cause the secularist to believe that it is indeed the panacea 
for all ills, and makes forms of inquiry obsolete and unnecessary as they 
no longer have any significant contribution to make. 

The second aspect of the disappearance of the sense of the transcen- 
dent involves the total involvement of God in the secular world, the nearly 
exclusive emphasis upon immanentism. In many instances, the churches 
no longer make ontological or dogmatic statements about a transcendent 
Diety. God-talk has been dispensed with in favor of a theological language 
speaking about Jesus of Nazareth, about human self -understanding, about 
the "Death of God." To make religion relevant to the secular society, the 
supernatural has to be excised, erased, forever. 

But this cry for relevance so easily results in religion's being swal- 
lowed up in the secular society. A Franz Kafka parable tells of people who 
were offered the choice between becoming kings or the couriers of kings. 
The result was that everyone wanted to be couriers. Therefore, there are 
only couriers who hurry about the world, shouting to each other messages 


that have become meaningless. Men have been offered the chance to lead 
— but they became couriers, and no one is left to make sense out of their 
message. Since there are no kings, there is no one to servel This is living 
without asking what life is all about! 

Just so, the Church has been offered the chance to lead, instead it 
has become a courier, and no one is left to make sense out of the message. 
Jesus never permitted himself to become relevant, but instead sought to 
redeem ! 

A recent issue of the New Yorker had in it a cartoon picturing a 
bearded beatnik wearing dark glasses, carrying a guitar strapped on his 
back. He was standing by the side of the road hitchhiking, holding in his 
hands a placard which bore the inscription, "Anyplace." 

How suggestive this is of modern man's dilemma. It lies in his loss of 
direction; he is willing to go anyplace anyone will take him, and having 
arrived will do anything anyone asks him to do. It is possible that modem 
man's frustrations and dissatisfactions lie in the fact that he has fallen 
in love with everything and anything rather than with something and some- 
one. Hosea of old well described his contemporaries, they "became detest- 
able like the thing they loved."2 This observation by the prophet comes from 
the context of Israel's permitting the adulterations of Baalism, that 
vegetative cult of Canaan, to infiltrate the Holy worship of Yahweh who 
had called them out of Egypt. He had thundered from Sinai: "I am the 
Lord your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house 
of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me." 3 

Is there an implied criticism of the cult of the relevant? Modern man 
has become so insatiated with making religion relevant to the current fash- 
ions — social and intellectual — that he may lie in danger of loosing the God 
before whose throne nations must bow with sacred joy. 

As Walter Eichrodt expressed it, Israel had lost a personal relationship 
with God by an impersonal entry into numinous forces of agricultural cults. 
In a desire to make religion relevant, they tried to imitate the mythology of 
the day, the mythology of the marriage of gods and goddesses with earth 
by having sexual relations with the cultic prostitutes at scattered shrines. 
Thus, in their religion, Israel had become as detestable as that which they 
loved. 4 

Kenneth Hamilton, in a literary study of the works of author John 
Updike, comments: "Updike links the boredom of much of our existence 
today with the poverty of the patterns we create." "We are all pilgrims 
on the way to divorce, says the narrator of 'The Music School,' a story 
in which Updike brings together the modern scientific world view, current 
matrimonial unfaithfulness, and the theology of the mass. The divorce 
between man and nature, man and woman, man and divine forgiveness — 
this is the experience of our age." 5 

Francois Fenelon, advisor to Louis XIV, penned some striking words 
centuries ago, words with a frightening sound even today: "We wish to 

love him on conditions that we give him words and ceremonies on 

condition that we do not sacrifice to him our living passion . . . and of the 
conveniences of the soft life. We want to love him on condition that we 
love ... all which he does not love at all. . . . We want very much to love 
him on condition that we do not lessen in anything that blind love of our- 
selves, which goes as far as idolatry, and which causes us, instead of re- 
lating ourselves to God as to one for whom we were made, to want on the 
contrary to relate God to ourselves. . . ." 6 

Are we able to catch what was in that ancient prophet's observation — 
the peoples had thought that they could sanctify the corrupt simply by 
calling it good, by saying that it was for good ends. They were making out 
of fornication and adultery what they called religious experiences. Do you 
recall the words of a British cleric a few years ago concerning the prostitute 
who helped a man regain his self-confidence by sleeping with him? Said the 
cleric: "Our proper response should be 'Glory to God in the highest.'" 

Not so! cried the prophet of the Lord. Rather than prostitution being 
raised to a meaningful religious experience, the participator in this act 


haid been dragged to the level of the harlot. To call something good or holy 
does not purify that which is in itself evil. If this is what modern secular 
religion has done, then what has actually taken place is a sinful rebellion 
against God. Man has created, in his own image, the kind of god he wants. 
Pope's essay on man has these words: "Vice is a monster of so frightful 
mien, as to be hated, needs to be seen: yet, seen too oft, familiar with her 
face, we first endure, then pity, then embrace." 

Far back in a rather obscure passage in the Book of Judges we read 
of a man called Micah.? This Micah had apparently stolen some money 
from his mother, who upon discovering this heinous deed proceeded to 
pronounce a curse upon the thief. Either because he feared the curse or 
simply because of a troubled conscience, Micah was moved to confess his 
crime to his mother. This then caused his mother to reward his honesty with 
two hundred pieces of silver. Taking this silver, Micah proceeded to make 
an image and prepared a shrine in his home. Subsequently, a wandering 
Levite or member of Israel's priestly family wandered by. He was con- 
vinced by Micah to stay with him as a personal priest. The young Levite 
agreed to serve for a guaranteed annual wage. 

Shortly thereafter a group of men from the tribe of Dan passed 
through the area. They were impressed by the young priest and by the 
shrine. They offered him more money for his services ; he accepted. Together 
they took the image and the special garb Micah had provided and fled. 
Micah came into his shrine. As he looked, he shrieked — if I may be granted 
the privilege of paraphrasing the Scriptural account — "My God! It's gone!" 
He gathered some neighbors and gave chase. Seeing Micah and his friends 
hot on their heels, one of the Danites turned to Micah and asked him, "What 
ails you that you come with such a company," Micah is said to have res- 
ponded with the words: "You take my gods which I have made, and the 
priest, and go away, and what have I left? How then do you ask, 'What ails 
you?' " A pathetic sentence from the Bible to portray the desperate con- 
dition of the twentieth century — the Christian Faith and secularism. 

Look for a moment at the man Micah. Well back into the history of 
Israel specific pronouncements had been made regarding the prohibition 
of any form of image. The reason for this was obviously that these ancient 
people realized that any physical portrayal of God was by its very presence 
a limitation of God. In spite of the specific directions found in the Mosaic 
code, here was an Israelite whose understanding of God was so limited 
and so distorted that he apparently believed that apart from some physical 
manifestation of God in the form of a statue or shrine he could not sense 
the presence of the Almighty. 

Note well: no hint is given by the Biblical writer of any cruel cult 
established by Micah. What he had done, however, was to degrade God to 
the mere representation by a figure. To this John Calvin commented: "It 

little matters what his intention was or what he told himself Any 

opinion concerning the heavenly mysteries which has been formed by men 
themselves ... is the mother of error." 8 

Micah came into the room which had become the reposing room for his 
idol. How desperate he must have felt when only barren walls and a 
cleared floor met his terrified glance. How would anyone feel who suddenly 
thought that God had been taken away. Yet, if we look more closely at 
Micah, is it not true that his tragedy lay not in his having lost God, but in 
the fact that his understanding of God was so distorted that he believed 
he could lose him. He "lost" what he never had — a vital relation to the 
living God of his fathers. 

Strange, is it not that Micah never seemed to comprehend that the 
God who could be stolen could hardly have been a God at all. It is like the 
story told of Heinrich Heine, that strange German romantic writer. It is 
said that on the last day he was to walk outdoors prior to the onset of a 
fatal spinal disease, he entered the Louvre, and stood before the statue of 
Venus de Milo. Later, as he reminisced, he wrote: "At her feet I lay a long 
time . . . and wept so as to move a stone to pity. And the . . . goddess . . . 


looked down at me . . . seeming to say : 'Dost thou not see that I have no 
arms, and therefore canst not help thee?' " 

I see in Micah's despair a strange similarity to that climax of the 
secularizing of religion, the cultic movement known as Christian Atheism. 
Their cry is that God is dead. No one seems to sense the utter absurdity 
of the very proclamation — that the god who could die and stay dead could 
not be God at all. The only god who has disappeared from the vision of 
these men (like Micah) is the little idols they have concocted in their own 
sinful images. God is not dead! It is what they never really knew that has 
"disappeared and died." 

Habbakkuk, Israel's prophet, put it: (Habbakkuk 2:19-20.) 
Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, 
Awake ; 
to a dumb stone, Arise! 
Can this give revelation? 
Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, 

and there is no breath in it. 
But the Lord is in His holy temple; 

let all the earth keep silence before Him. 

A further observation from the account of Micah suggests that in 
addition to his god having been taken, his priest had also left him. This was 
the adding of tragedy to catastrophe. That priest by virtue of the fact that 
he had wandered away from the nation's central religious structure and 
had taken the position as "private chaplain" to Micah would suggest that 
he was one of those characters who thought that he could operate more 
freely away from the "organization." It appears that Micah and the priest 
were not consciously trying to abolish the organized religion of Israel. But 
they failed to realize that formal ceremony carried on apart from the cen- 
tral core of the religious heritage of the people was wrong. 

Why did Micah hire the priest in the first place? More than likely it 
was because of his concern for precision in ceremony apart from the true 
source of religion. Micah was seemingly convinced that only to the correct 
rites would God respond. Rites and ceremonies — how terribly important 
they must have been to Micah. Now that his priest is gone, he feels 
he cannot worship. Micah never realized that personal faith and holiness 
come not through ceremony, but through reverence for God. 

A magnificent tree falls to the ground in the woods. From it can be 
made furniture, or even an altar. Yet, ultimately it will decay. Yonder one 
sees a similar piece of wood, but this one is still fastened to its roots drink- 
ing the water of life. It grows. Just so, ritual and religion apart from the 
very source of religion — God Himself — is dead. Is there a parallel here to 
the modern advocate who abandons the church to seek for his religion in 
the secular city? Such a one is so like the young priest who wandered far 
from the center of Israel's religion, from the source of life. 

What kind of character was that young priest? He was a man who 
turned his back on the religious heritage of his fathers and became a hired 
functionary, a man who left his first benefactor in order to keep pace with 
the allurements of the crowd which offered more glory and prestige. Was 
such a one really a loss to be mourned? Not even the priest's multiplicity 
of forms, not his aesthetic arrangement of decor could redeem him from 
his own callous living. How then could he have offered balm to the sin-sick 
soul of Micah? 

Finally, the Biblical narrative portrays the group of Danites, that 
group of wanderers, looking for a place to settle. We are told that some 
five spies went out. It was they who came upon Micah's shrine and asked 
the Levite to pray for their success. When they returned with their com- 
rades, they asked the priest to accompany them. He agreed; together they 
gathered up the images and the furniture and sped off. Thieves! Religious 
thieves! Thieves in the name of religion! 

Rather than the moral demands upon the lives of these men, religion 
helped to make them violate whatever scruples they once may have had. In 


the name of God, in the name of religion, they did as they pleased. That 
clergyman who not long ago suggested that a homosexual relationship or 
an evening with a prostitute might well be a profoundly religious experience 
would have made a good member of the Danites whose only concern for 
religion was in its potential benefits to them. 

Strange! Often many seem to be unable to comprehend that when 
religion is used as a guilt-woven drapery to cover one's own immorality or 
expansion politics, it can hardly be called religion at all. These Danites 
looked upon religion, upon God, as devoid of moral claims upon their lives. 
How like the words W. H. Auden puts into the mouth of a pray-er:io 
God, put away justice and truth, for we cannot understand 
them, and we do not want them. Eternity would bore us dread- 
fully. Leave Thy heavens and come down to our earth. ... Be 
interesting and weak like us, and we will love you as we love 

What a strange distortion of the demands of God who spoke from 
Sinai: "Thou shalt not." Religion must catch hold of man's very being and 
make a difference in how he behaves or it is no religion at all. It is never 
the case of asking God to rubber-stamp his approval upon one's own sinful 
ways, but rather his willingness to accept the judgement of God on his 
sinful ways that modern society needs. "My God! It's gone!" Yes, to the 
man who has enshrined him in an image; yes, to the man who has relegated 
him to ceremony and ritual; yes, to the man who wants him for conven- 
ience. But not to the man who heard the words of the Nazarene who spoke : 
"If you have seen me, you have seen the Father." 


i Brunner, Emil, Revelation and Reason. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1946, 
p. 4. 

zHosea 9:10 

3 Exodus 20:2-3 

4 Eichrodt, Walter, Man in the Old Testament. London: SCM Press, 1961. 

(See especially chapter one.) 

5 Hamilton, Kenneth, "John Updike," Christian Century, June 7, 1967, 

pp. 745-8. 

6 Cited by Buck, Harry, (New York: Macmillan and Company, 1967, 

p. 208.) 

7 Judges, Chapters 17 and 18. 

8 Calvin, John, Commentary on Judges, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1948. 

9 Brown, Lewis, That Man Heine. 

1 ° Auden, W. H., Collected Poems : New York, Random House, 1945, p. 457. 


Communism — The Sociological Challenge 

ON SUNDAY, JANUARY 22, 1905, the Tsar's Cossacks were turned 
loose on the striking workers in St. Petersburg, Russia. 1 Before the 
year — referred to by Lenin as "the year that buried patriarchal Russia" 
— had passed, some 2,800,000 people had taken part in the rebellion. 

The priest, George Jopan, leader of the peasants who converged on the 
great square, asked amnesty for the strikers already arrested, an expansion 
of civil liberties, land .reforms, and other ammenities. "Sire," he said, "do 
not refuse aid to thy people ! Throw down the wall that separates thee from 
thy people. Order and swear that our requests will be granted, and thou 
wilt make Russia happy." The Tsar did not appear. His later concessions 
were too late, for the nation of Russia was never to be the same. Onto the 
stage of human history was to appear one Lenin, carrying into practice 
some of the philosophical theories and meanderings of his sometime travel- 
ing companion and intellectual mentor, Karl Marx. 

Karl Marx, was born in Trier, Germany, the son of a prosperous Jewish 
lawyer, who for no apparent reason had himself and his family baptized 
into the state church when young Karl was six. His early study at the 
University of Berlin was marked by arrogance and satire. His acid tongue 
led him from his first love, teaching, into Journalism. His Manifesto, pre- 
pared in 1848, made no impression whatsoever on the intellectual com- 
munity of nineteenth century Europe. Before the consideration of the 
Marxian writings, it would be fitting to consider briefly the philosophical 
and intellectual heritage of this relatively unknown aspiring journalist 
whose teaching, according to Lenin, "is all-powerful because it is true." 
Lenin went on: "It is complete and harmonious providing man with a con- 
sistent view of the universe, which cannot be reconciled with any super- 
stition, any reaction, any defense of bourgeois oppression. It is the lawful 
succession of the best that has been created by humanity in the nineteenth 
century — German philosophy, English political economy, and French social- 
ism." 2 (There is a very real dilemna here; Marx and Lenin both assert 
true objectivity, but each also claims cultural determinism.) 

The primary intellectual stimulation for Marx seems to have been 
the philosophy of the German, Hegel. Philosophy, to Hegel, is a self-enclosed 
and self-sufficient system. Its subject matter is what has happened; its 
purpose is the clarification of the happening. To clarify an event is to ex- 
plain it in terms of its logical necessity, the dialectic of unfolding truth. 
What is real is reasonable; what is reasonable is real. 

Karl Marx accepted the Hegelian dialectic that reality is a process 
which is intelligible and moves with a logic all its own, but rejects the notion 
that this reality is the unfolding of absolute mind. It can be explained only 
as matter in motion, extended in space and time, existing in itself apart 
from mental awareness. The idea or world spirit of Hegel is to be replaced 
by the forces of production. 

Marx seems to have accepted the criticism of Hegel offered by Ludwig 
Feuerbach. Feuerbach taught that Philosophy began with mere sense per- 
ception. By this it follows that man is the measure of the truth and is the 
true substance of his world. The world is nonsensual; man objectifies it 
and himself. Thus, truth is circumstantial. 

Marxian philosophy is materialistic. Matter and its mode of existence, 
motion, are uncreatable and are their own final cause. The controlling force 
is not reason, but material (i.e. economic force). Men produce in order to 
live; as production increases a division of labor arises; out of this is an 
estrangement: The worker is alienated from the instrument of production, 
from tiie process of production, and from the product of production. Labor 
is construed as the commodity; the laborer does not receive equal to what 
he, produces. The dialectic of Hegel has been utilized by Karl Marx as the 
vehicle of his own philosophical development. 


Lenin has written: "Marx treats the question of communism in the 
same way as a naturalist would treat the question of the development of 
say, a new biological variety, once he knew that such and such was its 
origin and such and such was the definite direction in which it was 
changing." 3 Marx would have agreed whole-heartedly with Feuerbach who 
believed that religion was nothing other than the relation of man to him- 
self, or more correctly to his own nature. Feuerbach taught that the Divine 
Being is nothing else than the human nature purified, made objective and 

The end, then, for Marx, is inevitable: class-struggle, the recognition 
of the dictatorship of the proletariate, which is necessary for the period 
separating capitalism and communism. (A current inconsistency can be 
noted: The clique rules today, not the proletariate; some three percent 
rules Russia. Forgotten when the slogan, "abolish private property, abolish 
evil," is proclaimed, is the greed for lust and power within the hearts of 

Marx is saying that primordial matter is the cause of the inevitable 
occurrence: post hoc proves propter hoc, (i.e. the cause must necessarily 
entail its effect.) The determinism of the self-sufficient material world 
has the solution to the social problems of the day. 

Marxian thought builds upon his recognition of the misery of man and 
the sickness of society, which is the result of man's alienation from reality. 
Biblical teaching suggests that man's misery consists in his alienation from 
God. St. Paul, in Romans eight writes, The "Entire creation sighs and 
throbs with pain." James Stewart writes of Paul, "He knew that civiliza- 
tion was demon-ridden, and that ruthless forces held the soul of men in 
bitter thraldom. But what his piercing insight saw was that the mood of 
tragic desperation was itself the harbinger of hope."'* 

Marxian philosophy boasts of its humanism, its concern for the 
humiliated, the enslaved. But there is no true humanism, because it mutes 
the significance of the individual. 

Levi cites the novel by Arthur Koestler, Darkness at Noon, in which 
Ivanov says: "There are only two conceptions of human ethics ... One 
of them is Christian and humane, declares the individual to be sacrosanct, 
and asserts that the rules of arithmetic are not to be applied to human 
units. The other starts from the basic principles that a collective aim jus- 
tifies all means, and not only allows, but demands, that the individual should 
in every way be subordinated and sacrificed to the community." 5 

Hegel lost in theory and Marx lost in practice the worth of the individ- 
ual against the abstract collective. In the name of the class the individual 
is sacrificed and submerged. In the end the proletariate was of concern 
for Marx, not so much because it was suffering, but, because the dialectic 
of history forced the issue. 

To return a moment to man's alienation. He is separated from matter, 
the means of production. The allegation is made that labor has been appro- 
priated. Evil can be eliminated by changing economic relations. For Marx, 
salvation is an economic factor dependent upon the determined victory of 
the proletariate. This victory, however, depends upon the victory of the 
Communist Party, which is, in the end, the best judge of the interest of the 
proletariate class. The victory of the party is then dependent upon organ- 
ization in which the actual power is vested. Since the ruling group has the 
greater insight into social matters, it is in the position to judge the truth 
of any proposition. Because, to Marx, all in the world is interrelated, the 
world can be seen reflected in political movements. 

Implied in the dialectical materialism of Marx is philosophy of the 
state analogous to that of Plato. Perhaps few philosophers have taken 
Marx's philosophy of the state as seriously as they might, for its implica- 
tions have much to do with the social milieu of our day. The belief that 
the redemption of the society can come only when productive means and 
private ownership are destroyed, leads to a ruthless struggle for power 
within the Party and generates a new morality which endorses every act 
that might further the revolution. 


To take one contemporary illustration: Herbert Marcuse who is the 
intellectual spokesman for the movement often called the "New Left" 
applied certain Marxist concepts to American culture. For Marx's prole- 
tariate, Marcuse has the outcasts — the exploited, the unemployed, the dark- 
skinned. These are the vanguards of change — the potential "new man." 
Here may be found the crux of the assault upon society today. Our society, 
Marcuse has said, is one that compels the vast majority of the population 
to earn their lives in stupid, inhuman and unnecessary jobs. The free elec- 
tion of masters he has claimed, does not abolish the masters or the slaves. 
Free choice among a wide variety of goods and services sustain social con- 
trols over a life of toil or fear — that is, if they sustain alienation. 

Because of the dialectical character of human society, there are 
"forces and tendencies which may break this containment and explode the 
society." Marcuse is critical of the positivistic influence in philosophy since 
the day of Hume. He views it as based upon the authority of fact; thus 
thought must be satisfied with fact, with the state of affairs. 

This leads to Marcuse's attack on the modern university that has the 
"facts" which control the students. Thus the university is guilty of defend- 
ing the status quo. Marcuse has written: "The real field of knowledge is 
not the given fact about things as they are, but the critical evaluation of 
them as a prelude to passing beyond their given form." He develops the 
Hegelian notion of the "power of negative thinking:" "Thinking," said 
Hegel, "is, indeed, essentially the negation of that which is immediately 
before us." Negative thought must break down the given reality in order 
to create a new world." 6 Man has the power to negate every given condition 
and make his own conscious work. Man is engaged in self -creation ; he is 
the result of his own labor. 

In a paper 7 delivered by Dr. Bernad Zylstra of the Institute for 
Christian Studies in Toronto, it was suggested that for Marcuse this leads 
to a "total transvaluation of western values — and for the revolutionary 
embodiment of new values in the political arena. . . . The dialectical process 
of history must continue until all reality is realized in its full potential" — 
happening for all. 

According to the revolutionists, if man wants to be truly free, he must, 
first recognize his enslavement with an absolute refusal to accept "the 
system." Theoretical reason must become political revolution. Marcuse has 
further written: "The realization if the objective ... would call for intoler- 
ance toward prevailing policies." In the "humanism" of Marcuse, as in that 
of Marx, one can find that as one does in Marx, that "humanism" is imple- 
mented by an anti-humanism. 

The New Testament has some relevant words to this mood of our day. 
The Book of Acts, chapter three, records the account of a lame man who 
had been brought to the gate of the Jerusalem temple. Day after day some 
friends had done this favor for the man, leaving him in his misery just 
outside the building compound which represented everything that was holy 
in Judaism. What a picture this gives to the reader: tragedy, despair, dis- 
couragement, poverty — just outside the door of the temple. 

By virtue of the fact that this had been a daily ritual, one would sus- 
pect that no one inside the temple had taken cognizance of his needs. There 
he lay, a symbol, perhaps, that the prosperity of the temple and its "Gate 
beautiful" had led to a loss of spiritual perception. Is it not true that the 
sovereignty of God extends not only over prayer and worship but also over 
all human activities? It is the concern of the people of God to see 
to it that the social order is functioning in accordance with God's will. 

The life of Jesus would indicate that if he discriminated at all he did 
so in favor of the poor. Perhaps a crucial point in the narrative of the 
lame man at the gate of the temple is the implication that the people of 
God (i.e. The Church) needs to open its eyes to the needs of all who are 
about us, to become really aware of the fact that men do suffer and die 
right "alongside" of us. This is not to suggest that the Church as an insti- 
tution should dabble in politics, but that Christian men and women, con- 


cerned about housing and education, sanitation and recreation, should try 
to work for the glory of God. 

Religion of Jesus' day had fallen to the place so that what went on 
inside the sacred walls meant little to life on the outside. It would seem 
that the ponderous piety of the Pharisee, the subtle sophistication of the 
Saduccee, and the indifferent irreverence of the irreligious indicated all 
contact with life had been lost. 

Genesis gives us the account of Cain and Abel. The author would have 
us visualize God looking around for Abel. Not finding Abel, God asks his 
brother Cain concerning Abel's whereabouts. "Am I my brother's keeper?" 
responded Cain. 

An affirmative answer to Cain's question is implied as God asked: 
"What have you done?" "The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me 
from the ground." There is no indication in this narrative that Cain had 
deliberately plotted to murder his brother. It appears almost as if in 
a moment of anger at the prospect of God's willingness to accept the sacri- 
fice of Abel rather than his own, Cain picked up a stone or a stick and 
struck a blow. The punch, the blow, a fall — a casualty of man's lack of 
concern for another. I suspect that Cain was shocked when he saw Abel 
lie so still. He had seen sheep die, but never a man. So still he lay — and 
he tried to cover it in order to hide it from God. Suddenly the voice! "Where 
is your brother?" 

To be sure, life had its vertical dimension. But it must never be for- 
gotten that it has also its horizontal dimension. God is concerned with how 
a man treats his hrother. Is he now saying to us, "Your brother's blood is 
crying to me from the Asian battlefield, the riot-rocked cities, the hovels 
of the shanty-town." 

On the island of Iona, off Scotland, there stands a monastery from 
the thirteenth century. In the ancient chapel on a gothic arch above the 
pulpit, the monks had carved the face of a man in torment with sightless 
eyes, open mouth, agony-lined face — a constant reminder to the worshipper 
that the needs of men must concern him. 

There is a second observation that can be made from the lame man's 
request. We are told that he had been asking for coins from sympathetic 
passers-by. All he wanted was alms to assist him in his limited existence 
rather than strength to overcome his weakness. Does this portray much of 
mankind? Man is unaware of his real needs. He thinks he needs a surface 
ointment when in fact he needs radical surgery. The man asked for alms 
when he needed strength to walk again. 

Is there an analogy here to the modern church and the poverty pro- 
grams? All too often the people of this generation ask for hand-outs. They 
ask for and receive tokens which do little more, than preserve them in their 
previous miserable condition. This creates a generation of parasites who 
come for their daily dole, day after day, expecting that it will be there — 
after all, it always has. 

Man so often seems incapable of sensing the real problem of life. 
Basically, it is neither political nor economic; it is spiritual. This age needs, 
as every age before has needed the redemption of man and the whole social 
order. This will come, not by political realignment, by violent changes in 
government, nor by the expansion of poverty programs, but by the regen- 
eration of the human heart. The world at the door needs to be given the 
bold imperative: "Rise and walk!" Get up from the lethargy of lost initia- 
tive; get up from the ignorance of carelessness; get up from that life of 
sin which has you so bogged down that you have lost all cognizance of 

What the church of Christ needs to do is to put its emphasis on the 
core of the problem. The word sin needs to be recalled from its present 
place in ecclesiastical limbo. Is it not true that much poverty is caused by 
sin — not necessarily the sin of the poor, but the sin of the greedy, the big- 
oted and the proud, whose only concern is themselves. 

There is a third observation drawn from the account of the lame man. 
It is from Peter's words: In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, rise up and 


walk." We must note well — nothing was given tc the man enabling him to 
continue in his meager existence as a crippled beggar. The power of Jesus 
Christ was never meant to be used to dole out palliatives to help worldly 
woes; it was (and is!) meant to put men on their feet. Di\ George Buttrick 
made the observation: "True charity is more than flinging a coin to a 

There is a classic story that persistently appears, although its his- 
toricity is somewhat shrouded; nevertheless, it could well have occurred. 
St. Thomas Aquinas, the "angelic doctor" of Roman Catholic dogmatic 
theology, is said to have visited the papel chamber on an occasion when the 
Pope Innocent II was seated by a table counting gold. "You see," the Pope 
is said to have remarked, "the Church can no longer say, 'Silver and gold 
have I none.' " "True, Holy Father," responded Thomas, "but neither can 
it now say 'Arise, and walk." 

Peter and John served as channels through which the power of the 
resurrected Christ could move in the world. Peter enabled the beggar to 
take his eyes off himself and focus them on Christ. 

It is well to take note of the fact that Jesus himself stood apart from 
economic disputes. He r-efused to decide between two men disputing about 
an inheritance. Nevertheless, he taught that the gifts of God which men 
possessed should be distributed in such a way that all men should have a 
satisfying life. Jesus headed no social revolution nor legislated for social 
advances, but brought to men a spirit designed to set them crusading against 
injustice everywhere. Likewise, the church should concentrate on its God- 
given talk — holding up the Christ for all to see. If the Church is not a 
channel for the grace of God to flow through into the world, it is little 
more than cumbersome machinery. 

Man cannot be helped unless the Church can declare unequivocally that 
the cross of Christ, with all it typifies, did something for man which he 
could not do for himself or for one another. 


1 Overstreet, Harry and Bonaro, What We Must Know About Communism. 

New York: Norton and Company, 1958. A helpful summary is 
found in chapter one. 

2 Cited by: Levi, Albert William, Philosophy and the Modern World. 

Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1959, p. 201. 

3 Mendel, Arthus P., Essential Works of Marxism. New York: Bantam 

Books, 1961, p. 168. 

"> Stewart, James, Herald of God. London: Holder and Staughton, 1946. 

5 Levi, Op. Cit., p. 230. 

6 Marcuse, Herbert, Reason and Revelation. Boston: Beacon Press, 1941, 

p. 156. 

7 Presented at Wheaton College Philosophy Conference, November 6, 1969. 


it must search out ways to reach them. Here are some ways to 
face the issue: 

1. Approach private trailer camp owners with ideas and 
plans for conducting worship services for the campers. 
Ministerial associations or private persons can make such 
approaches and then recruit laymen to help conduct the services. 
Camp owners are quite open to clear-cut suggestions for such 
meetings. Responses to such services on the part of campers is 
quite significant. Often the percentage of campers attending is 
higher than persons attending a church services in a given town. 

2. Where the circumstances allow, worship services could 
be provided anywhere large groups of people congregate, not 
necessarily trailer camps. It is not sufficient to say that the 
churches are within a few miles ; let the people come in. The fact 
is that people will just not dress up to attend church. One can 
lament that fact but it still stands as a fact. Therefore, the 
church must make its penetrations of such gatherings of people 
with the truth about Jesus Christ. One alternative is possible: 
advertise widely if you are close to a camping area that you allow 
people to come to services in casual clothes. 

3. Provide worship centers in shopping malls. There are 
about a dozen such places across the country, the newest one 
being in the Eastwood Mall shopping center near Youngstown, 
Ohio. This is not an unscriptural concept since Paul found his 
audiences in the marketplace. Going where the people congregate 
has validity since the people are not always willing to come to 
where the organized church is congregated. The "called out" 
body must "call out" to the masses of people who otherwise 
might ignore the church and consequently be ignored. 

4. Have a worship service sometime through the week for 
those who will be traveling. Thursday evenings are being tried 
by some churches with modest success. This reaches the people 
before the weekend begins and provides the home-church setting 
for worship. It does not help the leadership problem nor 
the waning Sunday worship attendance but it does meet a grow- 
ing need. 

5. Provide printed or mimeographed worship services for 
your travelers to carry with them and then encourage individual 
families to conduct their own services. This would keep your 
families in touch with the church and maintain some sense of 
stability and union with the total congregation. 


Finally here are some questions which the leadership of the 
church must face squarely: 

1. What is the attitude toward people who are regularly 
away from the church service while traveling and/or camping? 
Will this attitude help to reach the millions of people on the 

2. What are the opportunities for reaching the mobile 
people in the immediate area? Have these opportunities been 
explored recently? 

3. Is every avenue being explored for encouraging nearby 
campers to attend worship services? 

4. Is every avenue being explored for encouraging church 
members to attend services or provide their own while they are 
away? Are printed helps offered? 

Mobility is a fact of life in America. The trend is clear, but 
what is not so clear is whether the church can meet the challenge 
of mobility. 

(continued from page 2) 

Charles F. Pfeiffer, Adjunct Professor of Old Testament at A. T. S., 
represents wide experience in pastoral and teaching ministries. The author 
of many books and articles, he is currently Professor of Ancient Literature 
at Central Michigan University. 

Ben Sorg is Chaplain at the Ohio State Reformatory, Mansfield, Ohio. 
In his work he has encouraged numbers of innovations in ministry to 
inmates such as Christian retreats within the Reformatory, visiting teams 
of inmates to make a Christian witness in churches in the area, and a half- 
way house for the- rehabilitation of newly-released persons. Chaplain Sorg 
has served as director for a number of seminary students involved in 
clinical training programs at O. S. R. 

George S. Spink is Professor of Religion at Ashland College and serves 
as Associate Professor of New Testament at A. T. S. 


Institutional Ministries 

Ben Sorg 

TT IS APPARENT TO MANY that existence in our culture is 
ever becoming more complex. It is also apparent that there 
are increasing numbers of people who, for one reason or another, 
are finding greater difficulty in independently maintaining their 
own existence. 

The number of institutions are steadily increasing. New 
types of institutions are continually being innovated. They serve 
those who are very young, and those who are very old. They 
serve the mentally retarded, the drug addicted, the unwed 
mother, or those who need vocational re-training. 

For the purpose of our discussion we will deal primarily 
with those institutions which require the residency (or confine- 
ment) of their patients. These types of institutions are unique 
in-as-much as they tend to create a culture within themselves, 
designed to be theraputic for the resident. This type of institu- 
tion usually has one or more full time chaplains as a part of its 
unique community. 

The chaplain of a mental hospital uses specific methods and 
terminology to communicate the gospel. These methods would 
understandably be different from those used by a chaplain at an 
institution for youthful offenders. Yet it seems to be difficult 
for the parish clergyman to understand that he himself relates 
very poorly in either setting. 

Some parish pastors who have spoken at institutions as 
visiting clergymen, have been frustrated by the uninhibited 
feed-back of their captive congregation, or perhaps by the lack 
of any response at all. Rather than to understand that this was 
caused by their own unfortunate choice of methods and words, 
they generally conclude that the chaplaincy has little potential 
and that it is unworthy of their serious effort. 

It naturally follows that some of these pastors see the 
chaplaincy as a possible early retirement, or as an escape from 
their unsuccessful encounters with the official board. 

Unfortunately, it also naturally follows that some of these 
pastors are motivated to seek the chaplaincy, and that their tour 


of duty is tragically unproductive. They have proven, of course, 
their original premise. 

There are clergymen, however, who recognize that they have 
skills and temperament for a particular institutional environ- 
ment. They take the time to develop and test these skills by serv- 
ing interships in supervised clinical exposures. They come to 
the chaplaincy eager and full of anticipation for a productive 

Two years ago a second chaplain was added to our staff. 
He came to us after twenty-five years parish work. His 
ecclesiastical superiors and friends generally concluded that he 
needed a rest. To the contrary, he came to us after nine months 
of clinical training in a correctional institution. He is now part 
of a ministry that has seen former inmates who now have be- 
come active lay Christians in their communities. Six former 
inmates are presently enrolled in colleges preparing for the full- 
time ministry; one of these has been recently appointed to the 
foreign mission field. 

We all are aware that ours is an age of specialization. Yet 
there are some clergymen who strongly feel that the only way to 
dispense the old "Gos-pill" is by the time honored methods and 
phrases chanted in three-quarter time. 

As more of our population becomes destined to have institu- 
tional experiences during some parts of their lives, we must stop 
mourning because so many pastors are leaving the parish to be- 
come specialists in these areas. There is a growing need for 
pastors to become skillful and sensitive in communicating the 
Peace of God to those who are in special crises. We must learn 
to communicate to persons who are in every type of situation. 


Counselling Ministries 

Jay G. Myers 

PEOPLE HAVE PROBLEMS and become troubled. Initially 
most try to work out a solution, but when the present dis- 
comfort becomes too great they will seek help. Where they go 
to seek that help depends basically on two conditions ; one is the 
individual's personal orientation, the other the availability of 
sources of help. 

The fact that forty-six per cent of people seeking counsel 
go first to a clergyman indicates something of the opportunity 
of the minister to serve, as well as his responsibility to become 
as proficient as possible in this vital work. Unfortunately not 
all who are called upon for such service are adequate to answer 
that call, and even more unfortunately too many do not know 
they are inadequate. But this need not be so. Counselling belongs 
in the area of Christian ministry ; in fact is a distinct and unique 
facet of the profession. 

No one need be reminded that this is an age of specializa- 
tion. Man's opportunity and resources from which to learn have 
become so immense that it is absurd for anyone to think that it 
is possible to be an expert in all areas of his own profession. In 
many instances clergymen have apparently failed to realize that 
to specialize in any given part of their "calling" as men of God 
is not an act of deserting that call. Not too many years ago if a 
priest or minister went into institutional chaplaincy work his 
friends and family wondered why he had left the ministry or 
what he had done to catch the wrath of some bishop or district 
superintendent. Even more recently people have wondered why 
a pastor leaves the ministry to become a counsellor. 

Somehow there must be a greater awareness within the 
ministry itself that counselling is a distinct specialty with a place 
that needs to be filled by people who recognize its importance 
and prepare themselves for such service without qualms about 
whether they are "leaving the ministry." It seems unfortunate 
but nevertheless true that members of other professions have on 
numerous occasions seemed more aware of the minister's role 
here than has been the case within the ministry itself. A 
psychiatrist speaking to a class of clergymen one day, opened 
his lecture with this remark : "If your profession had not abdi- 


cated its role many years ago we fellows would never have gotten 
into business." Obviously an over-simplification, but the speaker 
was an active churchman who also knew something of church 
history, so his statement had to carry some weight. One has to 
wonder where or how the art of counselling was relegated to a 
necessary chore that had to be done when time from more 
important Kingdom work could be spared. 

The word "counselling" means many things to many people 
and this is as it should be, but for the purpose of clarification 
of these remarks let us note the following definition. It provides 
some definite description as well as limitations. C. G. Wrenn 
wrote, "Counselling is a personal and dynamic relationship be- 
tween two people who approach a mutually defined problem with 
mutual consideration for each other to the end that the less ma- 
ture or more troubled of the two is aided to a self determined 
resolution of his problem." 

As one weighs this statement phrase by phrase and thinks 
upon the adjectives used he sees that what is defined here is a 
distinct process within a definite framework that cannot come to 
be by mere chance or wishful thinking. It implies an interper- 
sonal relationship that will be developed only by conscious effort 
upon the part of the counsellor as the initiator. In the role of 
the counsellor it defines a person who is self-understanding 
enough and discerning enough to be able to lay aside his own 
problems, fear, or biases well enough that he can be as concerned 
about the problem of the counselee as is the counselee himself. 

Matters not mentioned in this definition may be as signifi- 
cant as those that are. Nothing is said about "Doing" something, 
having the "right answer," trying to make the counselee "see 
things," or other so-called solutions one is prone to fall back upon 
when at a loss what to do to help another. But the purpose of 
this paper is not to analyze a definition of counselling, (surely 
this one will stand on its own merits) but hopefully to empha- 
size the case for the ministry of counselling among some men 
and women who believe they-are called to Christian ministry and 
may yet be looking for the most effective way to carry out that 

Counselling is frequently referred to as an art. That it is, 
and like any art it must be practiced to be learned. Some will 
find it interesting, challenging and sometimes obviously fruitful. 
Others may find it a burden and an unpleasant chore which must 
be done from time to time. Among the former and through 


their continual efforts will the religious ministry, as the entire 
profession, recognize the need in the field and the justification 
for some to specialize in developing this type of ministry. 

We stated in the opening of this paper that people in 
distress or overcome with what appear to them unsolvable 
problems will seek counsel. If qualified people are not available 
they will settle for less, frequently to more harm than good. The 
matter of limitations has not been covered here but that will 
come. It has been our observation that the more qualified the 
clergyman becomes in the specialty of counselling the easier it 
is for him to identify his limitations. 

Frequently people entering into a course of study to sharpen 
their counselling ability will state, "Well, I want only to deal 
with "spiritual questions." There may be various reasons for 
this statement as they embark upon a new venture but ultimately 
in nearly all cases they find that "spiritual" includes far more 
of the gamut of helping people with problems than they antici- 
pated. Further study and more inclusive concepts of what shall 
be considered as "spiritual" questions might obviate the reluc- 
tance of some potentially efficient counsellors to enter the field. 

People are repeatedly examining their own hierarchy of 
values. Probably most would not put it in those words, but why 
else are they seeking correct answers in so many life situations? 
What opportunity this opens to the person who prepares himself 
to assist without forcing, lead without pulling meanwhile tacitly 
witnessing to his own beliefs and values. Some such persons 
must answer the call. One is reminded of the short illustration 
of Jesus about the man who swept out the devils and replaced 
the clean house with nothing else. Someone must help him replace 
what he must throw out with better things. This is the urgency 
of Christian ministry in the field of personal counselling. 


Ministering to Students 

J. Thomas Grisso 

TF WE BROADLY DEFINE a "minister" as one who is helpful 
or gives aid, then every campus has its share of ministers in 
the form of counsellors and concerned professors. They minister 
to students by counseling them concerning various academic, 
psychological, and social options facing students. The Christian 
minister to students is a specialist in the counseling field, hope- 
fully fulfilling certain needs not usually met by other counselors 
on campus. A brief look at the process of change which students 
undergo may serve to point out these special needs. 

The primary psychological work facing a college student is 
the transition from his child-self to the establishment of some 
workable adult identity. This process is characterized by a good 
deal of exploratory behavior, in which the student "tests out" 
the myriad of possible roles and values open to him. A certain 
degree of flux and temporary instability, then, is a necessary 
characteristic of the student who is attempting to discover — not 
who he is — but what roles, values, and beliefs seem to "fit" him, 
and who he wishes to become. 

Recent release from parental control makes the process both 
exhilirating and frightening, as with any situation in which long- 
established boundaries for our behavior are suddenly removed. 
While they relish this freedom to explore, most students recog- 
nize the need for something dependable during this process — 
some thread of consistency or stability to which they can hold 
while making the necessary explorations. The search for an adult 
identity cannot proceed too far without faith in some ultimate 
reason for exploration — some confidence that the whole search 
makes sense. The Christian minister, then, can offer the student 
such a reason, in the form of Christian faith. 

I continually see students who are desperately looking for 
some meaning or purpose upon which to base their experiences. 
Their search for it is the object of much of their drug experimen- 
tation, their frequent interest in various Eastern and occult 
philosophies, and other sources which claim to hold ultimate 
answers to ultimate questions. Most students on most campuses, 
however, are resistant to Christianity as a possibility for satis- 


tying this need. This resistance comes from a number of sources, 
two of which may be worth mentioning. 

First, for many students, religious belief has been a primary 
source of guilt, rather than assurance and comfort. As such, it 
has often been harmful to both their psychological and spiritual 
development. Guilt tends to create a perpetual sense of failure 
for many people; and in their new freedom, some students are 
likely to reject the religious system which is the source of this 
threat to their own self-image. Second, many students have been 
exposed to individuals who, while identifying themselves as 
Christians, have engaged in behavior which seemed to be grossly 
inconsistent with the Christian belief they professed. Youthful 
idealism interprets this to mean that not only is the hypocritical 
Christian at fault, but also Christian doctrine itself. While this 
assumption is illogical, it nevertheless has biased many students 
to reject the idea that a Christian life could hold anything of 
worth for themselves. 

Overcoming these barriers is no easy task. Whether or not 
it can be achieved will depend primarily on personal character- 
istics of the minister himself — i.e., his style of life, his way of 
presenting himself, and how he views his role on the campus. I 
may lose some readers at this point, but I feel strongly that a 
sound Christian belief is not, in and of itself, a sufficient pre- 
requisite for engaging in a successful ministry to students. 
Psychological research on attitude and belief change shows 
clearly that people may most readily be led to change their belief 
systems when they value the persuader himself as a person — i.e., 
when they already believe that he himself has special worth or is 
of some particular significance in their own lives. The messenger 
must be trusted — perhaps even loved — before the message can 
even be given a hearing. 

The following are a number of guidelines which I feel might 
contribute to a fruitful ministry on a campus. In addition, they 
may serve to indicate the kind of person who is most likely to 
gain the trust of students — and therefore likely to have a fruit- 
ful ministry. 

1. Focus at least as much on satisfying non-spiritual needs 
as you do on satisfying spiritual needs. It is by such concerns 
that you become valuable to students, thus increasing your op- 
portunities to witness effectively. 


2. Don't sell out to "relevance." That which is socially 
relevant is of major concern on many campuses today. If you do 
not concern yourself with important social issues, of course, you 
will not be satisfying point No. 1 above. On the other hand, if 
your primary activity is that of championing socially-relevant 
causes, then your ministry may suffer. You are probably identi- 
fying with a small, special-interest group, thus decreasing the 
chances that you can effectively satisfy the spiritual needs of 
the majority of students on the campus who may not identify 
with that group. 

3. Keep an open mind. Your objective is to offer that belief 
which you have, not to alienate those whose beliefs are different 
from your own, religiously or politically. 

4. Stay out of your office. Or at least, stay out some of the 
time. The number of students who come to someone's office in 
time of need is extremely small. Find the campus gathering- 
places, and make yourself visible and available. 

5. Find out the types of students ivith whom you ivork best. 
Students break down into rough groupings — the intellectual, the 
dependent and insecure, the activist, the apathetic, the socializer, 
etc. No one person can work effectively with all student types, 
so you may want to focus on a few. This takes time and close 
observation of one's own reactions to the various types, as well 
as their reactions to you. Enlist the aid of students close to you 
who may be able to deal more effectively with student types with 
which you feel less comfortable. 

6. Get to know as many professors as possible. They are 
often the first to know about the problems of specific students. 
If the professor has met you, he is more likely to suggest to the 
students that you might be of help to him. 

7. Work cooperatively with other sources of help on campus 
— for example, counselors, deans, psychologists, medical person- 
nel, etc. The Christian minister is a specialist in a network of 
counseling services on most campuses. As such, methods of cross- 
referral should be clearly established and used frequently. You 
may often come across problems which are more appropriately 
handled by these other specialists. 

8. Don't plan organized activities or projects by yourself, 
not even a Sunday morning service. Take cues from interested 
students, and guide them in their plans. Don't be afraid to be- 


come involved in student projects which are not traditionally 
"religious" in nature, as long as they may be a vehicle for ex- 
pression of Christian concern for one's fellowman, a possible 
opportunity for witness, or a source of action which can solidify 
the Christian faith of those engaged in the project. 

In summary, the Christian minister may best be of service 
to students by offering them, in the form of Christian faith, 
something dependable to which they can hold during their some- 
times chaotic search for adult identity. If he can do this without 
stifling the student's curiosity to explore and experiment, then 
the belief itself will become an integral part of the student's new 
identity. Thus will the campus minister have done the students, 
and the world, a great service. 


On Creative Ministry 

Owen H. Alderfer 

TT SEEMS next to impossible for the minister in the seventies 
to labor without some sense of inadequacy in the face of the 
demands placed upon him by the complexity of the age and the 
needs of the people he must serve. If he is serving in a "tradi- 
tional pastorate" — whatever that is — the minister is probably 
tempted to feel that he must do something different and unusual 
to keep up with the times. The answer, he 'may feel, is in creative 
approaches to ministering, and so in the name of creativity, the 
minister may introduce all manner of novel and even bizarre 
forms and expressions into the church. Jazz masses, sensitivity 
groups, rock combos, dialogue sermons, religious dance, multi- 
media programs, and a variety of activities ad infinitum find 
their way into the church in a concern for creative ministry. 

That there is need for creative approaches to ministry for 
the seventies is obvious. This need is perennial. The demand and 
urgency for creativity is multiplied because of the acceleration 
of change and variety creating a plethora of demanding situa- 
tions in the world of the seventies. Alvin Toffler in his book 
Future Shock dramatizes this by pointing out that a line could 
be drawn somewhere in the 1950's dividing time in half. Man's 
experiences in all time prior to that date would be equal to man's 
experience in the few years since that time. This condition puts 
a burden for creative ministering upon the church that is more 
than something in the imagination of the minister. 

Having declared the need for creative ministering in the 
seventies this essay seeks to point to some efforts in this direc- 
tion along with some possibilities in this regard before conclud- 
ing with a statement of a philosophy regarding creative 
ministries for this decade. In teaching at Ashland Theological 
Seminary the writer has led classes which have searched out 
descriptive statements on the subject and which have visited 
various forms of ministering presently in existence which might 
be called creative ministries. 

Space will not allow an extended description of any or even 
a brief description of many creative ministries visited ; however, 
an introduction to a few may be in order. High on the list of 


creative ministries contacted, as far as class interest was con- 
cerned, is the Pittsburgh Experiment under the direction of Paul 
Everett. This ministry, begun under the inspiration of the late 
Reverend Sam Shoemaker, reaches a broad spectrum of needs, 
coordinating action and leading the way in interdenominational 
cooperation. Not a church itself, the Experiment serves as an 
enabling agency for the institutional church and for less formal 
agencies to perform a Christian ministry that affects a great 
metropolitan area. 

Completely different in form and function are two ministries 
visited in the Chicago area. One is Circle Church, a growing 
inner-city church under the leadership of a team of full and part- 
time ministers. Circle Church owns no property and has no build- 
ings of its own ; it is committed to investing its resources in per- 
sons well-equipped to minister to the situation to which the 
church is called. A committed leadership is working to equip a 
committed membership to be involved in the performance of its 
ministry throughout the city. Another Chicago-based ministry 
is Reba Place Fellowship, a modern Christian communal society 
which seeks to minister creatively by making a Christian witness 
to the economic and social structures of the age. Here is a com- 
munity living together as church — in a well-considered pattern 
and good order — with the objectives of realizing Christian com- 
munity, experiencing freedom from the necessity to accumulate 
goods, and living corporately in the world in obedience to Christ. 
It might be noted that reactions of men visiting these and other 
expressions of creative ministry varied from excitement to 
skepticism to boredom — typical of the reactions of a cross section 
of society, no doubt. 

An extensive list of writings on ministering creatively in 
the seventies could be offered with comment. A brief biblio- 
graphy is offered at the conclusion of the article for provocative 

What should be said about the concern for creativity in the 
way of a philosophic statement regarding ministering creatively 
in the seventies ? It seems evident that any effort to minister — at 
any time — must be measured by several criteria: (1) Is the 
approach to ministering an end in itself or is it a means to a 
greater end ? A number of things happening in churches appear 
to be ends in themselves; as such, they are scarcely more than 
"fun and games." Any ministry must lead beyond itself to Christ 


the Ultimate Minister. (2) Does it touch life with Life; that is, 
does it really minister? Anything called a ministry must meet 
the test of the term itself by meeting some point of human need. 
(3) Do form and function correspond? The "shape" of a minis- 
try must correspond with the objective to be realized ; only then 
will ministry take place. 

These criteria apply to any ministry; however, they are 
noted here relative to a philosophy regarding creative ministries. 
In the seventies — or in any age — the minister must approach any 
of his tasks creatively. "Creative ministries" is more in the way 
the minister approaches his work than it is in doing new things. 
The minister should preach, counsel, administer, and organize 
creatively. This may call for new approaches in a time when a 
host of new media are used to communicate ideas. The minister, 
using discretion, should feel free to adapt any effective new 
method or medium that will communicate the message and 
accomplish the ministry. 

Ministering creatively does not mean that a minister tries 
"to do everything." A point useful here was given to a class in 
The Church and Its Ministries by the Reverend Roger Shoup of 
Calvary Presbyterian Church in Cleveland, one of the few inner- 
city churches that is alive and more than holding its own in that 
city. He noted that a church or a minister should not try to do 
everything; the church or minister should do a few things but 
do them well. If the ministry is performed creatively, people will 
be ministered to and the Church will be a living force for God in 
the world. 

Presented here is a handful of works that may be provoca- 
tive for one wishing further to pursue creative approaches to 
ministering in the seventies. 

Bonnell, John S. Do You Want to be Healed? New York: Harper & Row, 

Coleman, Lyman. Digest for Creative Groups. Huntingdon Valley, Penn- 
sylvania: Christian Outreach, 1965. 

(The same writer is prolific in the developmen of creative approaches to 
ministering to the current situation.) 

Cox, Harvey. The Feast of Fools. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 

Gish, Arthur G. The New Left and Christian Radicalism. Grand Rapids, 
Mich.: Eerdmans, 1970. 


Larson, Bruce and Ralph Osborne. The Emerging Church. Waco, Texas: 
Word, 1970. 

O'Conner, Elizabeth. Call to Commitment. New York: Harper & Row, 1963. 

Raines, Robert. New Life in the Church. New York: Harper & Row, 1961. 

Schaeffer, Francis. The Church at the End of the 20th Century. Downers 
Grove, Illinois: Inter- Varsity, 1970. 

Trueblood, Elton. The Incendiary Fellowship. New York: Harper & Row, 

Webber, George W. God's Colony in Man's World. Nashville, Tenn.: 
Abingdon, 1960. 



(and Theological 


Ashland Theological Seminary 

Ashland, Ohio 

Spring 1972 


Winona Lake, Indiana 4*590 

Ashland Theological Seminary 
Ashland, Ohio 


Spring, 1972 


Introduction to the Current Issue 
The Editor - 

The American Tradition in Church and State 3 

Theological Foundations of Religious Liberty- 
James E. Wood, Jr., Th. D. - - - - 16 

Theocracy in the Old Testament 

Y. David Kim, Th. D. ------ 33 

Editorial Committee: Owen H. Alderfer, editor 

Joseph N. Kickasola 
Joseph R. Shultz, Dean 

Vol. V. No. 1 

Published By Ashland Theological Seminary, Ashland, Ohio 44805 

Introduction to the Current Issue 

THE RELATION of church to state is a concern with which 
Christians have long wrestled. Having its rise in a sacral 
society in which religion and the state were two sides of the same 
coin, Christianity represented a new concept in the structuring 
of society. This was the view that men may walk together in the 
market place but that they need not meet together in the same 
temples to worship. This new approach was a threat to the 
sacral structure of Roman society, and thus Christians were 
persecuted primarily as enemies of the state. 

With the Constantinian settlement a "Christian sacral state" 
came into being that prevailed until modern times — even in the 
church-state structures of the great reformers. Now and again 
this structure was challenged ; the Anabaptists on the Continent, 
the Separatists in England, the Rhode Island Colony in America 
all called for a restoration of the primitive Christian vision that 
the church and the state are separate realms. 

Aspects of this problem are very much with us in our time. 
Questions of prayer and Bible reading in the schools, public 
support for parochial schools, and a call for a national preference 
for Christianity are evidence of this. And so this issue focuses 
on church and state. James E. Wood, Jr., one of the outstanding 
authorities and spokesmen on this concern in America today, 
contributes two basic articles on them. These were presented by 
Dr. Wood during the all-institutional study on church and state 
at the seminary, February, 1971. 

Dr. Y. David Kim brings a Biblical and theological perspect- 
ive to the study of church and state in a statement on the idea of 
theocracy as developed in the Old Testament. 

Owen H. Alderfer, Editor 

Contributors to this Issue 

Y. David Kim is Associate Professor of Religion at Ashland College and 
has taught Old Testament at the seminary. He has studied both in Korea 
and the U. S. and holds an M. Th. degree from Princeton Theological Sem- 
inary and a Th. D. from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary with major work 
in Old Testament. Dr. Kim, an ordained minister in the United Presbyterian 
Church, has taught in Korea and the U. S. 

James E. Wood, Jr., is Professor of Religion and Chairman of Church- 
State Studies at Baylor University. He has taken advanced degrees at 
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (B. D., Th. M., Th. D.) and has done 
post-doctoral study at Yale University and the Naganuma School of Japanese 
Studies, Tokyo. Dr. Wood is an ordained minister in the Southern Baptist 
Church. He is editor of Church and State, has authored several works on 
church and state plus numerous journal articles, and has lectured on the 
subject on four continents. 

The American Tradition in 
Church and State 

James E. Wood, Jr. 

THE AMERICAN TRADITION of a free society in church 
and state, the non-establishment of religion and the free 
exercise of religion, represented on behalf of the founding 
fathers a bold experiment unparalleled in human history. The 
fact is that not until the twentieth century were the principles 
constitutionally and unequivocally enunciated anywhere else in 
the world. The uniqueness of America as a free society in church 
and state is of profound importance in understanding both its 
political and religious history. 

Religious liberty, which significantly is the concern of the 
First Amendment in America's Bill of Rights, was fundamental 
in the development of American civilization. And for Americans 
the principle of complete religious liberty, to quote from a famous 
case before the New York Supreme Court, "has always been 
regarded by the American people as the very heart of its national 
life." 1 More than three-quarters of a century ago, David Dudley 
Field, one of America's greatest jurists of the nineteenth century, 
declared that the separation of church and state in America was 
the "greatest achievement ever made in the cause of human 
progress." "If we had nothing else to boast of," Field wrote, "we 
could lay claim with justice that first among the nations we of 
this country made it an article of organic law that the relations 
between man and his Maker were a private concern, into which 
other men have no right to intrude." 2 Indeed, the American 
tradition of the free society in church and state is, as Leo Pfeffer 
has expressed it, "America's contribution to civilization." 3 Peter 
Drucker has written that "the relationship between religion, 
the state, and society, is perhaps the most fundamental — cer- 
tainly it is the most distinctive — feature of American political as 
well as American religious life." 4 

The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United 
States, "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment 
of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," is histor- 
ically rooted in a distinct doctrine of the church and a particular 
view of the state. It is derived from: (1) the concept of the 

free or secular state in which the church, independent of the 
state and political control, is thus to be dependent upon God for 
its authority and the accomplishment of its mission; and (2) the 
principle of voluntarism in religion, which affirms that the 
church must depend upon the voluntary responses of men. In 
judicial language, as reiterated in recent years by the U.S. 
Supreme Court, the First Amendment means the separation of 
church and state, namely that the state may not use religious 
means for the accomplishment of secular ends and that the 
church may not use secular means for the accomplishment of 
religious ends. 

The theological basis of the First Amendment rests upon 
the sovereignty of God, man in the image of God, and the human 
problem of sin. The concept of a free church and a free society, 
even today actualized in only a limited number of nation states, 
is clearly one of the major achievements of the modern world 
and a distinct contribution of the United States. Not until the 
inauguration of the "livelie experiment" of Rhode Island was 
religious liberty through church-state separation actually real- 
ized. Both the sovereignty of God and the sinful nature of man 
precluded the realization, as well as even the notion, of a 
Christian state and a state church. It was Roger Williams who 
found the basis for the secular state, as well as the free church, 
within the context of his theological thought. The state can never 
assume the role of God who alone is Lord of conscience. There- 
fore, Williams wrote, "No civil state or country can be truly 
called Christian." 5 

More than a century later, Isaac Backus, a leading clergy- 
man in the whole movement for separation of church and state 
in the United States, maintained that to be Christian all direct 
connections between church and state must be broken. Backus 
wrote, "God has appointed two different kinds of government in 
the world which are different in their nature and ought never 
to be confounded together ; one of which is called civil, the other 
ecclesiastical government." 6 For a commonwealth to be truly 
Christian, it must restrict its authority and rule to the secular, 
i.e. to the world and temporal affairs. "Now who can hear Christ 
declare that his kingdom is NOT OF THIS WORLD, and yet 
believe that this blending of the church and state together can 
be pleasing to him?" 7 Religious matters are to be separated from 
the jurisdiction of the state not because they are beneath the 
interests of the state, but, quite to the contrary, because they 
are too high and holy and thus are beyond the competence of 
the state. For "the free exercise of private judgment," Backus 

wrote, "and the unalienable rights of conscience are of too high 
a rank and dignity to be submitted to the decrees of council, or 
the imperfect laws of fallible legislators." 8 

"No-establishment of religion" means a secular state, a 
limited state in which the people have excluded the authority 
and jurisdiction of the state from religious affairs. The First 
Amendment provides a clear example of this: "Congress shall 
make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibit- 
ing the free exercise thereof." The disability here is explicitly on 
the state, not on religion. The totalitarian state, which is an 
unlimited state, grants a qualified freedom of religion, but 
specifically restricts the activities and programs of the church 
and its clergy. The secular state does not restrict religion per se, 
but, on the contrary, excludes the state's jurisdiction from 
religious affairs. The disability is on the state, not on religion. 

The no-establishment of religion requires that the church 
be the church and the state be the state, even though admittedly 
their functions may frequently and inevitably overlap. As Anson 
Phelps Stokes expressed it, "It means that churches are equal 
in the sight of the State, and that no church has the advantages 
or the disadvantages of establishment." 9 The secular state, as 
expressed in the free society, is neither Christian, nor Buddhist, 
nor religious, nor irreligious. To express it another way, the 
secular state seeks neither to promote nor to interfere with 
religion. Philip Schaff, America's most distinguished church 
historian of the nineteenth century, expressed it pointedly when 
he wrote that the American Constitution "is neither hostile nor 
friendly to any religion; it is simply silent on the subject, as 
lying beyond the jurisdiction of the general government." 10 

Unfortunately, there are those who have misrepresented 
the secular state as one whose ultimate commitment is to 
secularism. Consequently, many churchmen have come to regard 
the secular state as inimical to religion and as the source 
of irreverence, immorality, and intemperance. Meanwhile, the 
secularist also has misrepresented the secular state, as one 
scholar has observed, by converting "the secular from the neutral 
into the de facto opponent of religion. ... He has converted the 
secular into secularism." 11 

Distinction must always be made between "secularization" 
(i.e. the secular) and "secularism." The former has to do with 
freedom from church or ecclesiastical control, while the latter 
is a philosophy that excludes all forms of religious faith and 
worship. Secularism is practical atheism in that God and religion 

are ignored, and it provides nowhere for God to be God of men's 
lives. Thus while defending the secular character of America's 
public schools, the American Council on Education has rightly- 
declared, "We reject secularism as a philosophy of life and we 
cannot agree that it has ever been accepted as such by the 
American people." 12 While no doubt descriptive of the life style 
of many Americans, secularism is not a philosophy which, in 
principle, at least, is accepted as normative by the American 
people as a whole. As a matter of fact, the state committed to 
secularism is incompatible with the free society and certainty 
cannot be equated with the secular state. For example, the 
Communist state is avowedly committed to secularism, and 
hostility to religion is officially promulgated. Far from being 
uncommitted as the secular state, the Communist state is com- 
mitted to secularism, and therefore is not a free society. 
Secularism has always been a rival to the historic forms of 
religious faith. What free men, free Americans, must perceive 
is that the concept of the secular state is not born out of hostility 
to religion, for hostility to religion is completely irreconcilable 
with the very nature of the secular state. Franklin H. Littell 
was quite right when he perceptively wrote in his Protestant 
interpretation of religion in American history: "The whole 
image of early America as a 'Christian nation' (i.e. Protestant 
controlled) is a lie which must be struck down. . . ." I3 Clearly 
from a constitutional point of view, America is a secular state, 
a free society, in which neither religion nor irreligion enjoys 
any official status. 

The truth is that the secular state is one which the church 
should strongly welcome. As Gayraud S. Wilmore has so incisive- 
ly written, the church "has nowhere to stand except with the 
secular. It refuses to make an idol of religion. It makes common 
cause with the authentically secular without being permanently 
wedded to it. It believes in the secular not only as an instrument 
of divine providence and judgment but also as a partner with 
the church in the work of reconciliation." 14 Those who are wary 
of the concept of the secular state, as the condition of the 
no-establishment clause of the First Amendment, would do well 
to note that political absolutism and state deification have all 
too often accompanied the notion of the Christian state. Cer- 
tainly history warns that the concept of the Christian state is 
as hazardous for true religion as for civil liberty. As the free 
church is incontrovertibly in conflict with the totalitarian 
church, so the free society is inevitably incompatible with the 
totalitarian state. 


The First Amendment rests upon not only the notion and 
historical reality of a secular state but also a pluralistic society 
in which there is "the free exercise of religion." As the separa- 
tion of church and state is to be regarded as the guarantee of 
religious liberty, so the secular state is the legal basis of the 
pluralistic society. The issue of religious liberty, which inevitably 
involves liberty of conscience and thereby all civil liberties, is 
crucial to the understanding and maintenance of American 
democracy as a free society. Indeed the correlative of religious 
liberty is nothing less than the right of dissent, for as Charles 
Evans Hughes stated it, "When we lose the right to be different, 
we lose the right to be free." 15 A pluralistic society is one in 
which minority rights are constitutionally guaranteed, and the 
free exercise of religion — freedom of religion and freedom from 
religion — is assured. While the theological basis of the secular 
state is the sovereignity of God, the theological basis of the 
pluralistic society is the sacredness of persons. Indeed, the con- 
ception of man as a child of God is the basis of democracy. As 
Thomas Jefferson expressed it, "All men are endowed by their 
Creator with certain unalienable rights." 

One of the widespread myths that has evolved in the 
development of democracy in the modern world is the belief that 
the essence of democracy is simply majority or party rule, 
rather than the free and open society which prizes the sanctity 
and worth of individuals. To the emerging nations of Africa 
and Asia, as well as nations of the West, evidence is mounting 
that democracy is identified with a classless society which in 
turn is maintained by a sovereignty of the people or masses. 
Dissenters and minority groups thereby experience disfranchise- 
ment and discrimination even in nations which proudly call 
themselves "democracies." In actuality the term "democracy" 
has even been used in some instances to sanctify the disfran- 
chisement of various minority groups. 

For centuries the cruelest acts committed against man were 
done primarily in the name of religion. Slavery, persecutions, 
and holy wars were carried on under the banner of religion. 
Man has ever sought divine sanction for his behavior even when 
it meant to make holy that which was clearly unholy. Perhaps 
it is hardly less ironic today that the tendency of modern man 
is to justify his vilest and most inhuman acts in the name 
of democracy! 

Furthermore, liberty for oneself is not easily extended to 
include liberty for others. History is replete with examples of 

men who have advocated liberty, but actually were opposed to 
according liberty to those with differing views. John Locke, for 
example, spoke eloquently of the right of individuals to life, 
liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and property, but denied full 
toleration to atheists or Roman Catholics in England. Liberty 
has often been advocated by groups for themselves, while deny- 
ing liberty to others. The early Puritans of Massachusetts desired 
freedom for themselves, and Puritan leaders expressly con- 
demned democracy, which Governor John Winthrop called "the 
meanest and worst of all forms of government." 16 

Religious liberty as a universal principle has been most 
eloquently defended by religious minorities, and most vigorously 
assailed by religious majorities. The alleged "rights of majori- 
ties" easily become the basis of trampling upon the rights of 
minorities! This viewpoint was tersely expressed several years 
ago by a reviewer in summing up his judgment of a book on 
religion in the public schools. "This readable, scholarly study," 
he wrote, "provides ample evidence that we all believe in 
separation of church and state — for the other fellow's church !" 
Religious liberty, like civil or political liberty, is easily and 
fervently claimed for one's own association or group, but is often 
not readily granted to others. 

The real enemy to the pluralistic society in the modern 
world is the totalitarian state, in which the free exercise of 
religion, the basis of all civil liberties, is inevitably seriously 
abridged. That is to say, the crucial issue between the free 
society and the totalitarian state is always the question of 
civil liberties. 

Prior to 1914, totalitarianism was primarily represented in 
the monarchial forms of government in Europe, e.g., the Kaisers 
of Germany and the Czars of Russia. From the time of the 
French Revolution, however, the sovereignty of the monarch 
was gradually replaced by a sovereignty of the people which 
subsequently, Emil Brunner observes, "conquered the Western 
world." 17 State totalitarianism of the past was primarily state 
versus state, whereas modern state totalitarianism is directed 
primarily against the individual — i.e. the free exercise of his 
civil liberties. A new state absolutism has emerged : the totali- 
tarian state built not upon the sovereignty of a monarch, but a 
sovereignty of the people; i.e., not monarchial rule, but majority 
or party rule. 

Herein is justifiable cause for concern, even with the growth 
of democracy as a concept of government in the modern world. 


For democracy itself, if understood to mean merely the rule or 
sovereignty of the people, is no guarantee against state absolu- 
tism or the totalitarian state. It must be recognized that totali- 
tarianism, including totalitarian democracy, is the absolutizing 
of the political power wielded by the state. Totalitarianism is 
actualized, as Brunner says in Christianity and Civilization, 
thus : "If everyone is a functionary of the state, and if nobody 
can make his living independently of the state machinery, if 
there are not other than state schools, if the press, the cinema, 
the radio, are state controlled, free society is lost, opposition and 
public expression of independent opinion become impossible. 
Every deviation from the programme of the state becomes 
rebellion and sabotage." 18 

To be sure, democracy is essentially self-government; none- 
theless this does not preclude "the tyranny of the majority," of 
which John Stuart Mill warned. The dictatorship of the majority 
may be no less totalitarian than the dictatorship of a party or 
a personality cult. In the free society, state absolutism is con- 
trolled by guarantees of civil liberties, which are, in effect, 
limitations on government and political authority. As propounded 
by John Locke in England and Jean Jacques Rousseau in France, 
civil liberties are the natural rights of mankind and thus are 
too sacred for a government to transgress upon or to disregard. 
Thomas Jefferson expressed the view that men are endowed with 
"inherent, inalienable and unchanging rights." In the unlimited 
or totalitarian state there are no natural or inalienable rights 
of the individual. In our own cultural heritage, American civil 
rights guarantee freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom 
of the press, freedom of assembly, and the right "for a redress 
of grievances." There is today, and justifiably so, special con- 
cern for "equal justice under the law" — the extension of these 
rights to prohibit discrimination in all matters pertaining to 
public institutions, public housing, the political right of fran- 
chise, and economic and employment practices. 

As has been often noted, civil liberties in the United States 
are both substantive, as in the case of freedom of the press, and 
procedural as in the assurance of "a redress of grievances." It 
is significant that each of the state constitutions has from the 
outset sought to affirm guarantees of civil liberties. The first 
ten amendments to the United States Constitution represent the 
American Bill of Rights. Following the Civil War, the Thirteenth 
(1865) and the Fourteenth (1868) Amendments, both guaran- 
tees of civil rights, were ratified. While the first ten amend- 
ments limited the power of the federal government, the 

Fourteenth Amendment restricted any state from the abridgment 
of civil liberties. The Fourteenth Amendment reads : "No State 
shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges 
or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any 
State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without 
due process of law ; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction 
the equal protection of the laws." Thus the Fourteenth Amend- 
ment, building upon the civil liberties of the first ten amend- 
ments, guarantees "equal protection of the laws" for all people 
and prohibits the circumvention of these liberties by the states. 

Civil liberties have no real meaning apart from individual 
and minority rights, which can be guaranteed only in the free 
society. The totalitarian state allows and demands consent only, 
while the free society guarantees and requires the right of dis- 
sent as well as the voluntary consent of the governed. In this 
regard, it is necessary to realize that minority rights are 
necessary not only to sustain the principle of freedom, but also 
to maintain a democratic form of government. Without 
guaranteed civil liberties there could be actually no democratic 
rule, even of the majority. At the same time the freedom of the 
majority must never be allowed to destroy the freedom of the 
minority, without whom a society cannot remain free. "The 
worth of a State" wrote John Stuart Mill, ". . . is the worth of 
the individuals composing it ... a State which dwarfs its 
men, in order that they may be more docile instruments in its 
hands even for beneficial purposes — will find that with small 
men no great things can really be accomplished." 19 

As recognized by the courts, both state and federal, con- 
stitutional limitations exist for the protection of minorities not 
majorities, who are generally regarded as able to protect them- 
selves. Even democracy needs to be limited and this limitation 
of the sovereignty of the people is primarily maintained through 
the courts. Former Justice Felix Frankfurter expressed it this 
way: "Judicial review is a deliberate check upon democracy 
through an organ of government not subject to popular 
control." 20 Liberty, whether civil or religious, is freedom from 
the tyranny or the control of the state, the guaranteed right 
of dissent, and the freedom to obey one's own conscience in so 
far as it does not infringe upon the rights of others or threaten 
the stability of the social order. In religious matters, freedom 
of religious belief is absolute, although religious practice is sub- 
ject to the basic laws of the state. 

The foregoing discussion of the free exercise of religion is 
particularly germane to the problem of church and state today. 


Certainly the totalitarian state is always a serious threat to the 
church and the cause of religion. However, an altogether new 
phenomenon has emerged in the modern totalitarian states which 
have sworn hostility toward all religion. As indicated earlier, 
this situation is further compounded by a state absolutism which 
denies the right of dissent and at the same time demands 
supreme allegiance in all areas of life. 

In addition, religious liberty historically has been integrally 
related to majority and minority group relations. Toleration in 
religion has never come easy among the major faiths of mankind. 
Religious majorities find it most difficult to grant full freedom 
to religious dissenters or minorities. Pluralism, although descrip- 
tive constitutionally and sociologically of American culture, is 
not by any means an accepted fact among all religious groups in 
the United States. Inherent in the present tensions between 
church and state in the United States today is the avowed 
purpose and felt-need of many to commit this nation to the faith 
of the "majority" and the "founding fathers." Actually, there 
is no religious majority in this country, and no reasonably 
uniform religious faith of the founding fathers is discernable 
from history. Certainly many of the founding fathers' religious 
beliefs would not meet the theological requirements of Chris- 
tianity. Meanwhile, there are those who continue to maintain, 
as in the present controversy surrounding religion in the public 
schools, that the constitutional guarantees of religious freedom 
really apply only to Christianity, and that disestablishment in 
the United States means only non-preferential treatment of the 
various Christian denominations and sects. This is to misunder- 
stand the nature of the free society, which requires a state to be 
uncommitted in matters of faith and religion, and at the same 
time is, in effect, a denial of the principle of religious liberty. 
Non-preferential treatment of religion can never be equated with 
the principle of religious liberty. Generally behind such thinking 
is the presupposition that majority might should prevail over 
minority right — that a tyranny of the majority is historically 
and constitutionally justified. To suggest, for example, that in 
the question of religion in the public schools, as in all other 
church-state matters, religious exercises should be permitted 
because we are predominantly a religious people is to ignore 
both the nature of our free society as a secular state and the 
rights of minorities who do not share my commitment to the 
Judeo-Christian faith. In recent years voices have been heard 
expressing the danger of the "tyranny of the minority" and the 
extreme danger of individual rights being carried too far. To 


be sure, there is such a danger in the free society, but the point 
is that a tyranny of the majority is no less in conflict with the 
free society than a tyranny of the minority. What is more, the 
former nearly always tends to be the greater danger in a demo- 
cratic state. Tyranny is tyranny, whether of the majority or the 
minority, and tyranny is the grave of freedom. 


Happily, there has been increasingly, though erratic, 
recognition accorded the principle of religious liberty in the 
modern world, which has accompanied the growth of the free 
church and the free society. While there is overwhelming 
evidence to indicate that religious liberty is far from being a 
reality in much of today's world, and perhaps nowhere fully 
realized, yet the principle of religious liberty has increasingly 
become one of those axiomatic commitments that is almost 
universally recognized. Article 18 of the Universal Declaration 
of Human Rights of the United Nations has given expression 
to the wide acceptance of the principle of religious liberty. It 
reads: "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, con- 
science and religion; this right includes freedom to change his 
religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community 
with others, and in public or private to manifest his religion or 
belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance." 21 

The goal of the First Amendment is a free church and a free 
society. It is not an end in itself, but rather represents a 
constitutional means of assuring both the freedom of the church 
and the freedom of the state, and the independence of both. To 
many, the separation principle embodied in the First Amendment 
remains a negative and sterile concept, to be likened more to the 
image of a Berlin Wall than to the democratic society, which, it 
is said, must recognize the rights of religious majorities and the 
honored national traditions rooted in religious symbolism. But 
to understand the American tradition of church and state in 
historical perspective is to discern the concern for religious 
liberty through the free church and the free society. Writing 
more than a century ago, Alexis de Tocqueville observed the 
unity of the free church, the free society, and the separation of 
church and state. 

On my arrival in the United States the religious aspect of the 
country was the first thing that struck my attention; and the longer 
I stayed there, the more I perceived the great political consequences 
resulting from this new state of things. In France I had almost 
always seen the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom marching 


in opposite directions. But in America I found they were intimately 
united and that they reigned in common over the same country. My 
desire to discover the causes of this phenomenon increased from day 
to day. In order to satisfy it I questioned the members of all the 
different sects; I sought especially the society of the clergy, who are 
the depositories of the different creeds and are especially interested 
in their duration. As a member of the Roman Catholic Church, I 
was more particularly brought into contact with several of its priests, 
with whom I became intimately acquainted. To each of these men I 
expressed my astonishment and explained my doubts. I found that 
they differed upon matters of detail alone, and that they all attributed 
the peaceful dominion of religion in their country mainly to the 
separation of church and state.22 

Like all phrases applied to dynamic principles in history, 
the phrase "separation of church and state" is not entirely 
satisfying. The phrase has meant, and does mean, far more than 
the sum total of its parts. While, to be sure, religious liberty is 
not something which the state can confer upon the church, but 
which ultimately can only be exercised by the church, the goal 
of the separation principle, as enunciated in the First Amend- 
ment, must be nothing less than the constitutional guarantee of 
full religious liberty, both freedom of religion and freedom from 
religion. Church-state separation provides for the mutual 
independence of both the church and the state, in which the state 
is free of control by the church and the church is free of control 
by the state. Church-state separation has not meant, at least 
historically, the separation of religion and politics nor the 
separation of the church and politics. It does not mean the 
separation of religion and the state. It does mean the separation 
of the direct and official function of the church from the direct 
and official function of state. There can be little question, from 
an historical point of view, but that religious liberty finds its 
truest expression where the state is not legally dependent upon 
the church in the exercise of its authority, and the church is not 
dependent upon the state for its sanction and support. 

To suggest that the goal of church-state separation may be 
achieved simply so long as no one church enjoys special privileges 
and all denominations are treated impartially, is to fail to 
understand both the meaning and the significance of the secular 
state and the pluralistic society, and perhaps more importantly, 
the dependence of the church for its membership and support 
on a purely voluntary basis. Mere equality among the various 
religious communities in a given state is best described as 
Jurisdictionalism, and should not be referred to as church- 
state separation. 


The principle of the separation of church and state, to the 
degree it serves as a guarantee for religious liberty, involves 
the following basic freedoms : 

1. Freedom of conscience in matters of belief and worship. 

2. Freedom of the church, and its institutions, from state 
control and/or support. 

3. Freedom from privilege or discrimination among the 
different churches, or different religious communities. 

4. Freedom from civil disability for reasons of religion 
or irreligion. 

5. Freedom from involuntary support of religion — either 
by an act of worship or monetary contribution. 

6. Freedom of association in which all religious organi- 
zations are recognized as private and voluntary associations. 

7. Freedom of propagation of religion so long as it does 
not contravene the just civil laws of the state or threaten public 
health and order. 

The real basis of the free church idea is that which asks 
only for the right to be free in order to he the church. Separation 
of the church from the state is necessary not only that the church 
be free, but that more important, it may be pure! Just as the 
goal of the separation of church and state is a free church, so 
the goal of the separation principle is a free society. The 
rationale of church-state separation has been, and remains, to 
help assure both the free church and the free society. It is toward 
this free society in church and state that the First Amendment 
needs to be applied, and it is in this context it needs to 
be understood. 


i Miami Military Institute v. Leff, 129 Misc. 481, 220 N.Y.S. 
799, 810. 

2 David Dudley Field, "American Progress," Jurisprudence (New 
York: Martin B. Brown, 1893), p. 6. 

3 Cf. Leo Pfeffer, "Freedom and Separation: America's Contri- 
bution to Civilization," Journal of Church and State 2 (November 1960) : 

4 Quoted in William Lee Miller, "Religion and the American Way 
of Life," Religion and the Free Society (New York: The Fund for the 
Republic, 1958) p. 18. 

5 Roger Williams, The Bloody Tenent, of Persecution for cause of 
Conscience, discussed, in A Conference between Truth and Peace (16UU). 


6 Isaac Backus, A History of New England vjith Particular Refer- 
ence to the Denomination of Christians Called Baptists (Newton, Mass.: 
Backus Historical Society, 1871), II, 2-3. 

7 Cf. William G. McLoughlin, ed., Isaac Backus on Church, State, 
and Calvinism: Pamphlets, 1754-1789 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univer- 
sity Press, 1968), p. 318. 

8 Alvah Hovey, A Memoir of the Life and Times of the Reverend 
Isaac Backus (Boston: Gauld and Lincoln, 1858), pp. 205-206. 

9 Anson Phelps Stokes, Church and State in the United States, 
3 vols. (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1950), 1:47. 

10 Philip Schaff, Church and State in the United States, or the 
American Idea of Religious Liberty and Its Practical Effects xoith Official 
Documents (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1888), p. 15. This volume 
was commissioned by the American Historical Association for commem- 
oration of the one-hundredth anniversary of the ratification of the 
Constitution. It remained for a long period of time the standard work on 
the subject. 

1 1 Arthur Cohen, "The Problem of Pluralism," Religion and the Free 
Society (New York: The Fund for the Republic, 1958), pp. 37-38. 

1 2 American Council on Education Studies : Reports of Committees 
and Conferences, xi, No. 26 (Washington, D.C., April 1947), pp. 49f. 

13 Franklin H. Littell, From State Church to Pluralism: A Protestant 
Interpretation of Religion in American History (Garden City, New York: 
Doubleday and Co., 1962), p. xx. 

14 Gayraud S. Wilmore, The Secular Relevance of the Church (Phil- 
adelphia: Westminster, 1962), pp. 24-25. 

15 Quoted in Stokes, Church and State in the United States, 2:462. 

16 John Winthrop, The History of New England from 1630 to 1649 
(1853) ; quoted in Ernest Barker, Church State and Society Essays (Lon- 
don: Methuen & Co., 1930), p. 121. 

17 Emil Brunner, Christianity and Civilization, 2 vols. (London: 
Nisbet and Co., Ltd., 1949), 2:119. 

is Ibid., p. 120. 

19 John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (1859) (New York: The Bobbs- 
Merrill Co., 1956), pp. 140-141. 

20 Cf. Clyde E. Jacobs, Justice Frankfurter and Civil Liberties 
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1961), pp. 210-217. 

21 Cf. James E. Wood, Jr., "Religious Liberty in Ecumenical and 
International Perspective," Journal of Church and State 10 (Autumn 
1968): 421-436. 

22 Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 2 vols. (New York: 
A. A. Knopf, 1945), 1:308. 


Theological Foundations of 
Religious Liberty 

James E. Wood, Jr. 

THE EMERGENCE of religious liberty as a valid principle, 
as one of those axiomatic commitments that is almost univer- 
sally recognized, is surely one of the major achievements of our 
time. In spite of the fact that there is overwhelming evidence to 
indicate that religious liberty is far from being a reality in much 
of today's world, perhaps nowhere fully realized, religious liberty 
has become a normative principle for almost all nations and, 
conversely, the denial of religious liberty is virtually everywhere 
viewed as morally and legally invalid. Consequently, guarantees 
of religious liberty presently appear in most national constitu- 
tions throughout the world, including those governments com- 
mitted to atheism or irreligion. While religious liberty can hardly 
be said to be descriptive of conditions as they are in many 
countries throughout the world today, there is profound 
significance to be found in that the concept of religious liberty 
has come almost universally to have normative value. 

Despite this universal commitment to religious liberty, there 
is no universal consensus as to its basis, either between religion 
and secularism or among the great world religions themselves. 
Modern man while categorically advocating religious liberty 
has remained largely oblivous to its philosophical or religious 
bases as well as its historical roots. 

This almost universal commitment to religious liberty on 
the one hand and the lack of any universal consensus for the 
basis of religious liberty on the other hand points to a real 
danger. In the absence of any conscious philosophical or religious 
basis, obviously religious liberty is simply widely supported for 
a variety of 'practical reasons. There are those, for example, 
who support religious liberty solely because of expediency. This 
is readily understandable from the perspective of the history of 
religion. Whenever religion has enjoyed patronage, prestige, and 
power it has resisted the granting of freedom in conflict with 
its own teachings and truths. Religious minorities throughout 
history have been the natural allies of religious liberty. Unfor- 
tunately, religious minorities when transformed into religious 


majorities or given political or social power generally cease to 
be allies of religious liberty either in principle or in practice. 

It is quite possible to argue for religious liberty simply on 
the basis that the modern secular state views religion as a private 
concern of its citizens and that religion has no role to play in 
the public and social spheres of human society. Again, the state 
may also embrace the idea of religious liberty simply because 
it holds an apathetic view toward religion and seeks to avoid for 
purely political reasons any entanglement in the disagreements 
and dissensions between the religious communities themselves. 
Finally, religious liberty may be viewed not as an inalienable 
right, but as a concession to be granted by the state only insofar 
as religious liberty is not in conflict with the individual citizen's 
national allegiance and loyalty. Thereby, religious liberty may 
be simply the result of the assumption of the secondary character 
of all religious loyalties. 1 

Admittedly, the rise of the secular state and an increasingly 
pluralistic society within most nation states have greatly con- 
tributed to the almost universal recognition given to religious 
liberty; but this pragmatic basis alone, without some under- 
standing of and commitment to the foundations of religious 
liberty, will not suffice to sustain the principle or to prevent 
religious coercion, discrimination, and/or persecution during 
the crisis period of a nation's history. To be secure, religious 
liberty must ultimately find its basis or rationale within the 
respective faiths or systems of thought of mankind. Although 
any real universal consensus as to the foundations of religious 
liberty would presently appear unlikely, some recognition of 
and dedication to some firm foundations of religious liberty are 
necessary if its defense is to become rooted within the value 
system of mankind. 


Within the Christian tradition there have been wide and 
varied interpretations made of religious liberty and its theo- 
logical foundations. Happily, there is emerging today for the 
first time in many centuries a growing consensus within the 
Christian world community concerning the principle of religious 
liberty and its theological foundations. 2 There is increasing 
recognition that religious liberty means at least this: The 
inherent right of a person to religious commitment according 
to his own conscience, in public or in private to worship or not 
to worship according to his own understanding or preferences, 
to give public witness to one's faith (including the right of 


propagation), and to change one's religion — all without threat 
of reprisal or abridgment of his rights as a citizen. 

For Christians, religious liberty is theologically rooted first 
of all in God's nature and in His dealings with men. Freedom for 
man is rooted in God. Man's very capacity for freedom is from 
God. To be truly free is therefore to be at one with God; 
for freedom is where God is present. "Where the Spirit of the 
Lord is present, there is freedom." 3 Men reconciled to God are 
free men. "Freedom is what we have — Christ has set us free! 
Stand, then, as free men, and do not allow yourselves to become 
slaves again." 4 To be sure the Christian freedom alluded to here 
is an inner freedom, which ultimately does not depend on social 
and political conditions, although this inner freedom is the basis 
of man's right to external freedom. But it is important for 
Christians that the Biblical revelation identifies God as the 
source of freedom and that the manner of God's dealing with men 
is in freedom. While religious liberty is not an explicitly revealed 
truth in the Bible, it has, as Amos N. Wilder has stated, 
"unshakable grounding" in the Scriptures. 5 There is clearly 
a Biblical basis for religious freedom but in the final analysis 
"it is not single passages in the Bible, it is God's whole way of 
approaching mankind that gives us our lead." 6 

God's revelation of Himself comes to us in freedom; it is 
neither capricious nor coercive. Rather, an essential character- 
istic of the Gospel is that God has chosen to make Himself known 
in love and that, therefore, He does not use force to win 
our allegiance. "The basis of religious liberty is the very fact 
that Christ did not come in heavenly splendour and worldly 
majesty to subjugate any possible resistance and force all and 
everybody to subjection." 7 The entire Biblical revelation of the 
New Testament breathes the spirit of freedom. Christ made 
Himself of no reputation and took upon Himself the form of a 
servant and humbled Himself even unto the death of the cross. 8 
The invitation of Christ in the Gospels is "If you want to. . . ," 9 
By its very nature this is an invitation in freedom. Neither con- 
cern for God's rightful sovereignty over men nor God's inevitable 
judgment on disobedient men could alter the manner of Christ's 
approach to mankind. "Behold I stand at the door and knock; 
if any man hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into 
his house and eat with him, and he will eat with me." 10 

Christian ecumenical thought, both Catholic and Protestant, 
has given recognition to this truth. Vatican Council II declared : 
"God calls men to serve Him in spirit and in truth : hence they 


are bound in conscience but they stand under no compulsion. . . . 
This truth appears at its height in Christ Jesus, in whom God 
manifested Himself and His ways with men . . . His [Christ's] 
intention was to rouse faith in His hearers and to confirm them 
in faith, not to exert coercion upon them. ... He bore witness 
to the truth, but He refused to impose the truth by force on those 
who spoke against it. . . " n The World Council of Churches 
in New Delhi affirmed : "God's redemptive dealing with men is 
not coercive. Accordingly, human attempts by legal enactment 
or by pressure of social custom to coerce or to eliminate faith 
are violations of the fundamental ways of God with men. The 
freedom which God has given in Christ implies a free response 
to God's love. . . ," 12 

For faith to be faith it must be a voluntary, personal, and 
free act, an act born out of freedom. Faith is not faith if 
its voluntary character is abridged by coercion. Freedom is 
integrally bound up with God's revelation of Himself and in His 
relations with men. In God's very disclosure of Himself, freedom 
is a part of that revelation. God is not overpowering in His 
revelation to the point that man is subdued against his will. 
Man's very capacity to resist God's overtures of grace is in itself 
a profound testimony of the degree of divine respect for freedom. 
God does not compel faith, for faith, itself a gift of God, is by its 
very nature a free and voluntary act. As Augustin Leonard has 
stated it, "An imposed faith is a contradiction in terms . . . 
faith must be free if it is not to destroy itself." 13 For the Chris- 
tian, recognition of freedom in God's revelation is basic to 
religious liberty. "No intellectual ingenuity, no organized institu- 
tion, no kind of compulsion and no power of persuasion can 
change the fact that God deals with men as free and responsible 
beings and that he expects from them an uncoerced response." 14 
Doubtlessly, the World Council of Churches affirmed for Chris- 
tians everywhere the truth of this as follows: ". . . the 
revelation of God in Christ is a revelation that men are not 
forced to accept. He calls men to make a willing and obedient 
response to Him in faith, to answer with a free and confident 
'yes' to the eternal action of His love in which He reveals Him- 
self. This utterly free assent is undermined and destroyed when 
human coercion enters in." 15 

While this inner Christian freedom does not require an 
external civil or political freedom, civil and political freedom are 
desirable primarily as a means of creating that kind of environ- 
ment which will allow an unhindered expression of religious 
faith and commitment without civil or political advantages or 


disadvantages. It is this inner Christian freedom which is, in the 
final analysis, the Christian basis of external or social religious 
freedom. This external freedom is thereby the outward expres- 
sion of that inner freedom with which God has set us free. The 
right of religious liberty, at least for the Christian, is first of 
all the right to give outward expression to or manifestation of 
the inner freedom one has found in Christ. By its very nature, 
external coercion in religious matters is a denial of religious 
liberty and thereby God's purpose for man. 

Religious liberty is theologically rooted in man's nature 
and in his inalienable right to respond freely to God's revelation. 
Created in the image of God, man's likeness to the Creator 
consists in his freedom. In a profound sense, Soren Kierkegaard 
was right when he wrote, "Man is himself primarily and 
genuinely in his free choice." 16 To be a person is to have the 
capacity for freedom and to exercise that freedom, and it is this 
capacity for freedom which distinguishes man as being in the 
image of God. That is to say, freedom for man is rooted in God 
and to be free is ultimately to be at one with God — to be at one 
with His love and purpose for the world. The human right to 
religious liberty is, therefore, first of all the right to give 
outward expression to or manifestation of the inner freedom one 
has found in God. 

God-given, man's personhood is the foundation stone of 
man's right to religious liberty. Religious liberty, therefore, is 
the recognition of the right of the individual acting alone or in 
community, not a gift of the state. It is because of the potential 
destiny of man that the rights of men are to be regarded 
as inalienable and inviolate. The divinely ordered nature of man 
constitutes the basis for all of man's human rights and civil 
liberties. It is the rationale, whether acknowledged or not, for 
democracy and constitutional government in which the rights 
of man are accepted as binding. Ultimately,, the basis of all 
human rights is the dignity and sacredness of the human person 
by virtue of God's creation. Religious liberty is an inherent right 
of man in order that he may respond to God without hindrance 
or coercion, and thereby experience the reconciliation which God 
yearns to see effected in all men. Men are to be free in matters 
of conscience and religion, first and foremost in order that God 
may be sovereign of their lives and that in turn men may freely 
respond to that sovereignty and bring about the ordering of their 
lives according to the will of God. As A. F. Carrillo de Albornoz 
expressed it, "Our religious freedom in human society finds its 
justification in our dependence on God's will." 17 


Religious liberty is rooted in the inviolable sacredness of the 
human conscience. Man has juridical rights because he possesses 
certain inalienable moral rights as a person. Basic to all of man's 
moral rights is religious liberty, without which all of man's civil 
rights are abridged. The truth is that religious liberty is funda- 
mental to civil liberty. Increasing recognition in the modern 
world has been given to the essential role of religious freedom 
as being basic to all other human rights, that "religious freedom 
is the condition and guarantee of all true freedom." 18 

The former Chief Justice of the United States Supreme 
Court and former President of the American Baptist Convention 
wrote, "In the forum of conscience, duty to a moral power higher 
than the state has always been maintained. . . . The essence of 
religion is belief in a relation to God involving duties superior 
to those arising from any human relation." 19 Recognition of this 
moral right to religious liberty was expressed seventeen centuries 
earlier by Tertullian. "It is matter of both human and natural 
law," he said, "that every man can worship as he wishes. . . . 
It is not in the nature of religion to impose itself by force." 20 
Man has a sacred obligation to obey his conscience. For "man's 
one and only means of learning God's will for him is the voice 
of his own conscience." 21 Because freedom of conscience is 
essential to a man's personhood in the image of God and his way 
of response to God, no man should be compelled to act contrary 
to his conscience. To be sure, the exercise of one's conscience 
must be limited by the protection of other men's rights and the 
maintenance of a just social order. Even these limits, however, 
must not be imposed arbitrarily or partially, but in the spirit 
of equality and non-discrimination. 

One of the foundation principles of religious liberty is that 
religion, as with God, must wait upon the voluntary responses 
of men. The dignity of the human person is too sacred to be vio- 
lated by religious coercion and enforced conformity, which are 
a denial of the dignity and sacredness of human personality. God 
Himself has too much regard for the dignity of the human person 
to ignore the sacredness of man's rights. Religious liberty is thus 
the legal recognition on the part of the state of the sacred right 
of a person to decide matters of ultimate belief and commitment 
for himself. As Vatican Council II rightly proclaimed, "The 
protection and promotion of the inviolable rights of man ranks 
among the essential duties of government." 22 And as the World 
Council of Churches affirmed at the time of its organization 
more than twenty years earlier, "The nature and destiny of man 


. . . establish limits beyond which the government cannot with 
impunity go." 23 

The foundations of religious liberty rest upon not only the 
sacredness of human personality and the inviolability of the 
human conscience, but also, paradoxically enough, upon the sin- 
ful nature of man. The dialectic of Christian anthropology is 
that man is created in the image of God and, at the same time, 
he is by nature a sinner. There can be no infallible human 
authority or institution, partly because of the sacred right of 
each man to follow the dictates of his own conscience in his quest 
for truth, but also because of the sinful nature to be found in 
all men and therefore in all institutions. No Christian and indeed 
no church is entitled to the claim of having attained to any final, 
infallible dogmas of truth. Every Christian and every church 
ought to be aware that any apprehension of truth is necessarily 
only partial because of the sinful and finite nature of man. This 
imperfection of man is to be understood as descriptive not only 
of man's moral behavior but also of his theology as well ! In re- 
viewing the Protestant Reformation, Reinhold Niebuhr observed, 
"The intolerance of the Reformation is the consequence of a 
violation of its own doctrinal position. Its doctrine of justifica- 
tion by faith presupposed the imperfection of the redeemed. 
Logically this includes the imperfection of redeemed knowledge 
and wisdom." 24 Significantly, most of the Reformed confessions 
acknowledge that as Christians we know "only in part," as do 
many of the Baptist confessions of faith. The Baptist Confession 
of 1646 declared, "We confess that we know but in part and that 
we are ignorant of many things which we desire and seek to 
know ; and if any shall do us that friendly part to show us from 
the Word of God that we see not, we shall have cause to be thank- 
ful to God and to them." 25 Both Martin Luther and John Calvin 
recognized the truth of this principle. The New England Puritan 
John Cotton taught "that all power that is on earth be limited, 
church power or other." 26 The Protestant emphasis on justifica- 
tion by faith actually precludes the possibility of any claim of 
infallibility for one's own doctrinal formulations or one's under- 
standing of truth. The claims of men and institutions to infalli- 
bility are to be viewed with profound skepticism. "All have 
sinned and come short of the glory of God" 27 is not only 
descriptive of man's nature, it is also a thoroughly democratic 
presupposition. The sinful nature of man negates the possibility 
of the absolutizing of human authority, religious or political, 
and by limiting all human authority provides an important 
foundation for religious liberty. 


Religious liberty is theologically rooted in the limited state 
in which civil authority has no jurisdiction over matters of 
religious belief and practice. The power of all government, 
indeed all human authority, is inevitably limited by the inalien- 
able rights of man. These rights stand over against claims of 
omnipotence and absolutism on the part of the state which, 
though ordained by God, was created by man for public good. 
One essential duty of the state is to promote and protect the 
inviolable rights of man. This has been widely recognized in 
modern times by the United Nations Declaration on Human 
Rights, the World Council of Churches, the Roman Catholic 
Church in Vatican Council II, and the Baptist World Alliance. 28 
By its very nature, the authority of the state is civil or human, 
and this authority is derived from the consent of the governed. 
The denial of religious liberty is beyond the rightful jurisdiction 
of the state if for no other reason than that it violates the funda- 
mental rights of man. The state has no right to use political 
means for the promotion or the prohibition of religion. Acknow- 
ledgement of the state's limited role in religious matters is 
recognition of the sacredness of man's rights in religious affairs 
which are to be properly regarded as so sacred as to be beyond 
the authority and jurisdiction of civil government. This is 
precisely the theological basis for disestablishment and the 
separation of church and state, in which government is expressly 
prohibited from establishing or maintaining any jurisdictional 
power over religion. Religious liberty limits the secular power 
of both the church and the state, but protects the sanctity of 
man's conscience in matters of ultimate concern. One of the 
earliest Baptist leaders in colonial America, John Clarke, 
expressed it perceptively when he wrote, "A flourishing Civil 
State may stand, yea, and best be maintained . . . with a full 
liberty of religious concernments." 29 

To illustrate from my own tradition, for example, Baptists 
have a long history of contending for the limited state in which 
religious liberty would be fully guaranteed by civil authority. 
The Baptist Confession of 1612, "Proposition and Conclusions 
concerning True Christian Religion," signed by dissidents who 
had fled the persecution of James I in England, proclaimed "that 
the magistrate is not by virtue of his office to meddle with 
religion, or matters of conscience, to force or compel men to this 
or that form of religion, or doctrine : but to leave the Christian 
religion free, to every man's conscience, and to handle only civil 
transgressions (Rom. xiii), injuries and wrongs of man against 
man, in murder, adultery, theft, etc., for Christ only is the king, 


and lawgiver of the church and conscience (James iv. 12 )." 30 
This confession has been generally accepted as "perhaps the first 
confession of faith of modern times to demand freedom of 
religion and separation of church and state." 31 In the Standard 
Confession of 1660, English Baptists, having affirmed their 
support of civil authority declared: ". . . we and all men are 
obliged by Gospel rules, to be suject to the higher Powers, to obey 
Magistrates, Titus 3:1 and to submit to every Ordinance of man, 
for the Lord's sake, as saith Peter 2:13. But in case the Civil 
Powers do, or shall at any time impose things about matters of 
Religion, which we through conscience to God cannot actually 
obey, then we ... do hereby declare our whole, and holy intent 
and purpose, that ... we will not yield, nor . . .in the least 
actually obey them . . . [but] suffer whatsoever shall be 
inflicted upon us, for our conscionable forbearance." 32 

Recent ecumenical thought has also rightly acknowledged 
the limitation of political power as a major foundation of 
religious liberty. "From the Christian view the State has but 
limited, not unlimited, authority from God. Secular authority 
is not entitled to rule over man's conscience. The government 
concerns itself with peace and order, with economic and social 
welfare, but it does not rule over man's conscience." 33 

The limited state is not only a derivative of the sacredness 
of man's rights, but also the sovereignty of God, which together 
"constitute an irremovable limit of the State which it cannot 
with impunity transgress." 34 The truth was expressed for 
Christians by Peter and John in the affirmation, "We must obey 
God rather than men." 35 God's sovereignty is man's most trans- 
cendent loyalty, which necessarily supercedes one's loyalty to 
human and civil authority. The limited state stands as a safe- 
guard against an uncritical exaltation of the state, one inevitable 
consequence of which is the abridgment of religious liberty. The 
totalitarian state, which is an unlimited state, grants a qualified 
freedom of religion, but specifically restricts the activities and 
programs of the church and clergy. The limited state does not 
restrict religion per se, but, on the contrary, excludes the state's 
jurisdiction from religious affairs. "The sovereignty of God 
excludes an absolute of human power. It excludes both the 
absolute sovereignty of the state and the absolute sovereignty of 
the people. All known authority is limited by divine authority 
and by divine law." 36 

H. Richard Niebuhr incisively wrote of the foundation of 
religious liberty in terms of the limited state. "Religious liberty 


is rooted in the acknowledgment that loyalty to God is prior to 
every civic loyalty ; that before man is a member of any political 
society he is a member of the universal commonwealth in which 
he is under obligations that take precedence over all duties to 
the state; and that the state must therefore acknowledge man's 
rights to perform such duties. Religion, so understood, lies 
beyond the provenance of the state not because it is private, 
inconsequential, or other-worldly matter but because it concerns 
men's allegiance to a sovereignty and a community more 
immediate, more inclusive, and more fateful than those of the 
political commonwealth. Religious freedom ... is an acknow- 
ledgement by the state of the limitation of its sovereignty and of 
the relative character of the loyalty it is entitled to claim." 37 
Religious liberty, legally guaranteed, recognizes that man has 
ends and loyalties beyond the jurisdiction of the state by virtue 
of man's sacredness as a person and his inviolable rights. The 
state, therefore, has no right either to intrude on God's dealings 
with man or to invade on the inner life of man. 


There is not only a theological, but also an historical basis 
of religious liberty. While the foundations of religious liberty 
are properly to be seen first and foremost in terms of certain 
theological axioms, the basis of religious liberty in the modern 
world must also be seen as the consequence of the secular state, 
religious pluralism, and international relations and international 
law. The very concept of religious liberty as we know it today 
emerged slowly and was not realized until the modern era, 
although long advocated by various Christian thinkers and 
particularly by the free churches of the Radical Reformation. 

Religious liberty is historically rooted in the emergence of 
the secular state. The major advances toward religious liberty 
came not from church confessions of faith, councils, or synods, 
but from constitutions, legislatures, and courts of law. The con- 
cept of religious liberty was rooted in the notion of "liberty of 
conscience," a phrase of modern origin which came into use 
after the Protestant Reformation and appeared most prominently 
in writings during the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth 
centuries. Even though the Protestant Reformation did not 
generally espouse the principle of religious liberty, it did repre- 
sent a revolt against authority and in turn fostered the emer- 
gence of new nation-states and a new secular spirit throughout 
Europe and Great Britain, out of which the view of the secular 
state was born. 


The emergence of the secular state is of major historical 
significance to the growth of religious liberty in the modern 
world. The actualization of the secular state, so directly related to 
religious liberty in today's world, is not without theological basis 
in Christian history. Earlier advocated by Marsilius of Padua 
and the Radical Reformer, Roger Williams, the acknowledged 
architect of the American tradition of the separation of church 
and state, sought to provide a theological basis for the secular 
state. Williams insisted that the authority of the state is "not 
religious, Christian, etc., but natural, human, [and] civil," and 
therefore is "improper" in proscribing conscience or religious 
affairs. The state can never assume the role of God who alone 
is Lord of conscience. "All magistrates in the world, both before 
the coming of Christ Jesus and since," Williams wrote, "are 
but derivative and agents . . . serving for the good of the 
whole." 38 Consequently, this meant for Williams that "no civil 
state or country can be truly called Christian, although true 
Christians be in it." 39 More than a century later, Isaac Backus, 
a leader of American Baptists in the eighteenth century, argued 
that a Christian view of government requires that a state restrict 
its authority and rule to the purely secular. "Now who can hear 
Christ declare that his kingdom is NOT OF THIS WORLD, and 
yet believe that this blending of the church and state together 
can be pleasing to him?" 40 Religious matters are to be separated 
from the jurisdiction of the state not because they are beneath 
the interests of the state, but, quite to the contrary, because they 
are too high and holy and thus are beyond the competence of the 
state. For "the free exercise of private judgment," Backus wrote, 
"and the inalienable rights of conscience are of too high a rank 
and dignity to be submitted to the decrees of council, or the im- 
perfect laws of fallible legislators." 41 

The secular state is one in which the state is independent 
of church or ecclesiastical control and the church is independent 
of state or political control. In application, the secular state 
stands as a bulwark for religious liberty in its denial of 
the state's using religious means for the accomplishment of 
religious ends. The secular state is one in which churches are 
equal in the sight of the state and that no church has any advan- 
tages or disadvantages of establishment. The secular state, as 
such, is neither Christian, nor Hindu, nor Buddhist, nor Muslim, 
nor Shinto, nor religious, nor irreligious. The truly secular state 
is one in which the state seeks neither to promote nor to prohibit 
the free exercise of religion, in which neither religion nor 
irreligion enjoys an official status. 


The emergence of the secular state has clearly aided the cause 
of religious liberty in the modern world, and therefore should not 
be viewed as an enemy of religion, but as an ally of religious 
liberty. The truth is that the secular state is one which the church 
should strongly welcome. As Gayraud S. Wilmore has incisively 
written, the church "has nowhere to stand except with the 
secular. It refuses to make an idol of religion. It makes common 
cause with the authentically secular without being permanently 
wedded to it. It believes in the secular not only as an instrument 
of divine providence and judgment but also a partner with the 
church in the work of reconciliation." 42 Those Christians who are 
wary of the secular state in the modern world would do well to 
note that political absolutism and state deification have all too 
often accompanied the notion of the Christian state. Certainly 
history warns that the concept of the Christian state is as 
hazardous for true religion as for religious liberty. 

Religious liberty is historically rooted in the emergence of 
religious nonconformity and pluralism. Aided by both secular 
and theological thought, liberty for truth in the Western world 
gradually gave way to liberty of conscience, namely the liberty 
to seek and respond to the truth as one apprehended it. In the 
absence of any objective basis for truth, mutual toleration 
naturally followed. Roger Williams saw the protection of this 
religious nonconformity and pluralism as "the will and command 
of God." "God requireth," Williams wrote, "not an uniformity 
of religion to be enacted and enforced in any civil state, which 
enforced uniformity sooner or later is the greatest occasion of 
civil war, ravishing conscience, persecution of Christ Jesus in 
His servants, and of the hypocrisy and destruction of millions 
of souls." 43 

It is the legal recognition of the religiously pluralistic 
society, a phenomenon increasingly descriptive of societies 
throughout the world, that has provided one of the major prag- 
matic foundations of religious liberty in the modern world. 
Religious pluralism has come to be a deterrent to religious 
totalitarianism and to the denial of religious liberty. In 
the West, for example, the very disintegration of a united 
Christendom, or mundus Christianus, actually advanced the 
cause of religious liberty throughout the Western world. The 
right of Catholics and Protestants to restrict the freedom of 
dissenters and heretics was gradually eroded, and religious 
liberty as a principle came to be widely espoused, so much so 
that in the twentieth century there has developed a broad con- 
sensus, among both churches and states, in support of religious 


liberty. Unfortunately, there are still those churches and those 
religions which today, in the face of the pluralistic character of 
today's world, are willing to espouse religious liberty as an 
abstract principle, but whenever and wherever possible they 
seek to maintain privileges for themselves. To do so, however, 
is to deny the character of religious pluralism, wherever legally 
guaranteed, and thereby to weaken one of the major foundations 
of religious liberty, so essential to the spirit of world community, 
in today's world. 

Finally, religious liberty is historically rooted in interna- 
tional relations and international laiv. That is to say, historically 
speaking, the principle of religious liberty was greatly aided by 
and in large measure to the consequence of international rela- 
tions that resulted from the ratification of treaties between 
states. "International law and religious liberty," as M. Searle 
Bates expressed it, "grew in intimate association." 44 In the nine- 
teenth century, with sovereign states identified with different 
religious traditions, it became common in the drawing up of 
treaties to include provisions for the right of nationals of each 
contracting party in the territory of the other. Since these 
foreign nationals were often identifiable by both their nationality 
and their religion, it was inevitable that specific safeguards were 
provided for freedom of conscience, worship, and religious work 
"upon the same terms as nationals of the state of residence." 45 

The Treaty of Berlin in 1878 at the close of the Russo- 
Turkish War, with its provisions for equal rights of religious 
minorities, is an excellent example of the role of international 
agreement for religious liberty. Other treaties of the nineteenth 
and twentieth centuries, among many others, which provided 
guarantees of religious liberty were: the American Treaty with 
Japan in 1858, the General Act relating to African Possessions, 
signed at Berlin in 1885, and the Minorities Treaties of 1919- 
1923. More and more states throughout the world voluntarily 
entered into constitutional and treaty commitments to secure 
religious liberty for their own citizens as well as for foreign 
residents. Meanwhile, the great universal religious, with an in- 
creasingly wide geographical distribution of their adherents 
and communities, challenged those ethnic or national states which 
were built on the idea of a single religious tradition or a parti- 
cular church. With the advance of the modern missionary move- 
ment Christian churches were formed throughout the world as 
voluntary associations of religious minorities. The principle of 
religious liberty came to be affirmed by virtually all national 
governments as a part of national law. 


As late as World War II, however, religious liberty was not 
recognized as a matter of international law. A study prepared in 
1942 for the Joint Committee on Religious Liberty of the Inter- 
national Missionary Council declared, "No writer asserts that 
there is a generally accepted postulate of international law that 
every State is under legal obligation to accord religious liberty 
within its jurisdiction." 46 It is of profound significance, there- 
fore, that following the organization of the United Nations in 
1945, concerted efforts were soon directed toward the formula- 
tion of a principle of religious liberty as a fundamental right 
to which all member nations were to subscribe and in recognition 
of the vital relationship of religious liberty to relations between 
states. One of the basic principles included in the Charter of the 
United Nations is that of "the dignity and equality inherent in 
all human beings," and that, therefore, all member nations "have 
pledged themselves to take joint and separate action in co- 
operation with the Organization to promote and encourage 
universal respect for and observance of human rights and 
fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, 
language, or religion." As Charles Habib Malik, Christian states- 
man and former President of the United Nations Assembly and 
Rapporteur of the UN Commission on Human Rights in 1948, 
recently wrote, "The movement for human rights which is rising 
to a crescendo all over the world owes much of its impetus to the 
original ferment supplied over the years by the Universal 
Declaration of Human Rights." 47 

Today religious liberty has become an international neces- 
sity. The international dimension of contemporary life inevitably 
requires all world faiths to espouse religious liberty for all men 
everywhere since "an international community could not prosper 
without mutual civil tolerance and universal respect for men's 
consciences" 48 and special privileges have become a practical 
impossibility. "An essential element in a good international order 
is freedom of religion. This is an implication of the Christian 
faith and of the world-wide nature of Christianity. Christians, 
therefore, view the question of religious freedom as an inter- 
national problem. They are concerned that religious freedom 
be everywhere secured." 49 This is the background for viewing 
in proper perspective the United Nations Declaration on Human 
Rights. The growing interr elatedness among all nations has 
underscored in the modern world that if peace and harmony are 
to be established and maintained among mankind, it is essential 
that guarantees of religious liberty must be constitutionally 
provided everywhere. Admittedly, there are those that say the 


espousal of religious liberty in recent years by various Christian 
denominations is as expedient in the modern world as the denial 
of religious liberty seemed to be expedient to the churches during 
the Middle Ages and the Reformation period. Political patronage 
to the churches, it is observed, has been in steady decline during 
the past century and a half. Also, outside the West, Christianity 
is represented by scattered, Christian minorities in the midst of 
the great resurging traditional civilizations of the East. Even the 
larger established churches in the West have felt the need to 
express concern for the status of these Christian minorities 
which have emerged, particularly during the nineteenth and 
twentieth centuries. Furthermore, in much of the West the wide- 
spread defections from Christianity have caused the churches to 
come to be regarded as representing only small minorities in 
largely alien and hostile cultures. 

While this practical, existential argument in support of 
religious liberty is irrefutable, A. F. Carrillo de Albornoz is right 
in affirming that "this pragmatic argument, of itself, would 
have no final validity if the right to religious freedom had not 
already been based on eternal, universal principles." 50 The 
practical argument for religious liberty as an international 
necessity becomes a valuable argument only after theological 
and philosophical foundations have been laid down as the basis 
for religious liberty. Such reasoning, in the final analysis, only 
underscores further the need for unqualified Christian commit- 
ment to religious liberty in principle and in practice, based upon 
a reaffirmation of the theological foundations of religious liberty 
within the context of Christian faith and witness. 


1 Cf. H. Richard Niebuhr, Radical Monotheism and Western 
Culture (New York: Harper and Row, I960), pp. 70-71. 

2 While any real commitment on the part of ecumenical Chris- 
tianity, Protestant or Catholic, to the principle of religious liberty has 
been slow to emerge, growing recognition given to religious liberty may 
be seen in Declaration of Religious Liberty of Vatican Council II and the 
pronouncements on religious liberty made by the World Council of 
Churches ever since the First Assembly of the World Council of Churches 
at Amsterdam in 1948. Cf. A. F. Carrillo de Albornoz, Religious Liberty 
(New York: Sheed and Ward, 1967) and James E. Wood, Jr., "Religious 
Liberty in Ecumenical and International Perspective," Journal oj Church 
and State, X (Autumn 1968), 421-436. Since 1939, the Baptist World 
Alliance has repeatedly reaffirmed its commitment to the principle of 
religious liberty. 

3 II Corinthians 3:17. 

4 Galatians 5 : 1. 


5 Amos N. Wilder, "Eleutheria in the New Testament and Religious 
Liberty," The Ecumenical Review, XIII (July 1961), 411. 

6 Niels H. Soe, quoted in A. F. Carrillo de Alboraoz, The Basis of 
Religious Liberty (New York: Association Press, 1963), p. 56. 

7 Niels H. Soe, "The Theological Basis of Religious Liberty," The 
Ecumenical Review, XI (January 1958), 40. 

s Phillippians 2:7-8. 

9 Matthew 19:21-22. 

io Revelation 3:20. 

1 1 Cf . "De Libertate Religiosa : A Declaration of Religious Freedom," 
Vatican Council II, Journal of Church and State, VIII (Winter 1966), 

12 Cf. The New Delhi Report: The Third Assembly of the World 
Council of Churches, 1961 (New York: Association Press), "Statement on 
Religious Liberty," p. 159. 

13 Augustin Leonard, "Freedom of Faith and Civil Toleration," in 
Tolerance and the Catholic (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1955), p. 113. 

H Carrillo, The Basis of Religious Liberty, p. 74. 

1 5 Evanston to New Delhi, 1954-61. (Geneva; Report of the Central 
Committee at the Third Assembly of the World Council of Churches, 1961), 
Report on "Christian Witness, Proselytism and Religious Liberty." 

i6Soren Kierkegaard, Training in Christianity (1850); quoted in 
Soe, "The Theological Basis of Religious Liberty," p. 41. 

1 7 Carrillo, Religious Liberty, p. 41. 

18 World Council of Churches, Central Committee, Chichester, 1949; 
quoted in Carrillo, Religious Liberty, p. 35. 

1 9 Justice Charles Evans Hughes' dissenting opinion in United States 
v. Mackintosh, 283 U.S., October Term, 1930. 

20 Quoted in Joseph Lecler, S.J., "Religious Freedom: An Historical 
Survey," in Religious Freedom, edited by Neophytos Edelby and Teodoro 
Jimenez-Urresti. Concilium (New York: Paulist Press, 1966), p. 5. 

21 Albert Hartmann, Toleranz und Christlicher Glaube (Frankfurt- 
am-Main: Knecht, 1955), p. 182. 

22 "De Libertate Religiosa," Journal of Church and State, VIII 
(Winter 1966), p. 21. 

23 The First Assembly of the World Council of Churches: Held at 
Amsterdam, August 22-September 4, 1948 (New York: Harper and 
Brothers, 1949), "Declaration on Religious Liberty," pp. 93-95. 

24 Reinhold Niebuhr, The Nature and Destiny of Man: A Christian 
Interpretation (2 vols.; Charles Scribner's Sons, 1941), II, 238. 

25 The Particular Baptist Confession of 1646 declared: "We confess 
that we know but in part and that we are ignorant of many things which 
we desire and seek to know; and if any shall do us that friendly part to 
show us from the Word of God that we see not, we shall have cause to be 
thankful to God and to them." Cf. Lumpkin, Baptist Confessions of Faith, 
pp. 175-177. 

26 John Cotton, An Exposition upon the Thirteenth Chapter of 
Revelation (London: L. Chapman, 1655), p. 72. 


27 Romans 3:23. 

28 Cf. Wood, "Religious Liberty in Ecumenical and International 
Perspective," pp. 424-436. 

29 Records of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations; 
quoted in Anson Phelps Stokes, Church and State in the United States 
(3 vols.; New York: Harper and Brothers, 1950), III, 205. 

3 William L. Lumpkin, Baptist Confessions of Faith (Philadelphia: 
The Judson Press, 1959), p. 140. 

3 1 Ibid., p. 134. 

1 2 Ibid., p. 233. 

3 3 Carrillo, The Basis of Religious Liberty, p. 84. 

34 The First Assembly of the World Council of Churches: Held at 
Amsterdam, 1948, "Declaration on Religious Liberty," p. 93. 

35 Acts 4:19; 5:29. 

3 6 Emil Brunner, Christianity and Civilisation (2 vols.; London: 
Nisbet and Co., Ltd., 1948), II, 17. 

3 7 Niebuhr, Radical Monotheism and Western Culture, pp. 70-71. 

3 8 The Bloody Tenent, of Persecution for cause of Conscience, dis- 
cussed, in A Conference between Truth and Peace (1644). 

3 9 Quoted in James Ernest, Roger Williams: New England Firebrand 
(New York: The Macmillan Co., 1932), p. 429. 

40 Cf. William G. McLoughlin, ed., Isaac Backus on Church, State 
and Calvinism: Pamphlets, 1754-1789 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univer- 
sity Press, 1968), p. 318. 

41 Alvah Hovey, A Memoir of the Life and Times of the Reverend 
Isaac Backus (Boston: Gould and Lincoln, 1858), pp. 205-206. 

42 Gayraud S. Wilmore, The Secular Relevance of the Church 
(Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1962), pp. 24-25. 

43 Roger Williams, The Bloody Tenent of Persecution. . . . 

44 M. Searle Bates, Religious Liberty: An Inquiry (New York: 
Harper and Brothers, 1945), p. 476. From his study, Bates observed, "A 
review of the forty-seven writers of the more important general treaties 
on international law, following the time of Grotius, shows that fully thirty 
refer to religious liberty" (ibid.). 

45 The Treaty of Friendship, Commerce, and Navigation Between 
United States of America and the. Republic of Liberia, Article I, Treaty 
Series, No. 956 (1940), p. 1; quoted in Bates, Religious Liberty, p. 486. 

46 Norman J. Padelford, "International Guarantees of Religious 
Liberty"; quoted in Bates, Religious Liberty, p. 476. 

47 O. Frederick Nolde, Free and Equal (Geneva: World Council of 
Churches, 1968), p. 13. 

48 Carrillo, Religious Liberty, p. 33. 

49 The First Assembly of the Work 
rdam, 1948, "Declaration on Religio 

50 Carrillo, Religious Liberty, p. 33. 

49 The First Assembly of the World Council of Churches: Held at 
Amsterdam, 1948, "Declaration on Religious Liberty." 


Theocracy in the Old Testament 

Y. David Kim 

"Theocracy" is defined by Webster as a "government . . . 
by the immediate direction or administration of God; hence, 
government ... by priests or clergy as representatives of 
God." 1 According to this definition, any state that claims to be 
governed by God or gods may be called a theocracy. History has 
seen many such governments. This idea underlies the Papacy 
and the Caliphate. 

The term theocracy does not occur in the Old Testament. 
The idea, however, of the rule of God over His people permeates 
through its pages. In fact, when Flavius Josephus of the first 
century used the term initially, he intended it to denote exclu- 
sively the form of government described in the Old Testament. 
Josephus said, upon the analogy of aristocracy and democracy, 
"Our legislator . . . ordered our government to be what I may 
call ... a theocracy." 2 

Theocracy in Israel, as defined by Josephus, has survived 
all the vicissitudes of history. Accordingly, it may not be too 
much to say that the history of Israel is the history of theocracy. 
To set this out fully would be like writing the whole history of 
Israel. This article will confine itself to several salient points of 
its development within the scope of the Old Testament. 

I. Inauguration through Moses 

It is widely accepted, through the work of Gerhard von 
Rad, 3 that the earliest and most succinct expression of the 
historical memory of Israel is preserved in the Book of Deu- 
teronomy 26 :5-9. In this passage the Israelite who will eventually 
reach the Promised Land is commanded to present himself before 
the altar of God (Deut. 26:1-4) and recite the mighty acts of 
God in a liturgy, saying, 

A wandering Aramean was my father; and he went down into 
Egypt and sojourned there, few in number; and there he became a 
nation great, mighty, and populous. And the Egyptians treated us 
harshly, and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard bondage. Then we 
cried to the Lord the God of our fathers, and the Lord heard our 
voice, and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression; and the 
Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an out- 
stretched arm, with great terror, with signs and wonders; and he 
brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with 
milk and honey. 


This is an affirmation of the faith that God, the Creator of the 
universe, the Ruler of the world, has rescued the Israelites from 
the Egyptian bondage, made them a nation, and has given them 
the Promised Land. 

An equally basic element in the historical memory of Israel 
is the covenant, inaugurated at Mount Sinai through Moses 
(Neh. 9:13-15). It is the faith of Israel that the God who had 
delivered them from the Egyptian slavery did condescend to 
enter into a covenant with Israel, and promised to rule over 
them as their King. 4 The notion of theocracy begins just here. 

Out of grace, God offered the Decalogue as the basic con- 
dition for the covenant 5 and the people of Israel, by accepting 
it, solemnly put themselves under the obligation to obey its 
stipulations (Ex. 19-24). Thus, the people of Israel became God's 
subjects, and God became their King (Pss. 44:4, 68:24). 

G. E. Mendenhall has demonstrated that the Sinai covenant 
was of a type prevalent in the ancient Near East in the second 
millenium B.C., and that it was similar to the form of suzerainty 
treaty between the Hittite king and his vassals. 6 

According to Mendenhall, the primary purpose of the 
suzerainty treaty was to establish a firm relationship of mutual 
support between the king and the vassal. The stipulations of the 
covenant were, however, binding only upon the vassal who took 
an oath to trust in the benevolence of the king, while the king 
promised the protection of the vassal. 

II. Preservation through Judges 

Israel, in her early days in the Promised Land, was a tribal 
league, a loose confederation of clans united one to another in the 
service of their God. 7 The center of their life was the Ark of the 
Covenant which moved from place to place and finally came to 
rest in Shiloh (Num. 10:33-36, I Sam. 2:12-14). Here the tribes- 
men gathered on feast days to seek the presence of God and to 
renew their allegiance to Him. 

The king of Israel was the Lord God (Jud. 8:23, I Sam. 
8:7), and in Him all the powers of the nation, legislative, execu- 
tive, judicial were united. Consequently, there was no king, nor 
central government, nor was there any hierarchical organization. 
Indeed, "in those days, there was no king in Israel; every man 
did what was right in his own eyes" (Jud. 17:6, 21:25). 

As a semi-nomadic people in a new land, however, the 
Israelites fared a very precarious existence. They were surround- 
ed by foes without a unifying government. The only basis of 


unity among the people was their common faith in God. Hence 
whenever this faith slackened, their unity was loosened and 
inevitably invited their foe's attack. 

When the people of Israel were attacked by the surrounding 
foes, they cried to God for help and God raised judges to cope 
with the situation. Judges were heroes upon whom the Spirit of 
God rested mightily (Jud. 3:10, 14:6). They were charismatic 
leaders who, under the influence of the Spirit of God, led the 
people to defend themselves from the attacking foes. They were 
agents of God's reign in Israel and preservers of theocracy in 
those early days (Jud. 4 — 5). 

The authority of the judges was neither absolute over all 
Israel, nor was it permanent ; in no case was it hereditary. Their 
authority rested solely in charismatic qualities that made them 
men of the hour. They were strictly agents of God's rule, and 
this is clearly expressed by Gideon, one of the judges, who re- 
fused to rule over Israel, saying, "I will not rule over you, and 
my son will not rule over you; the Lord will rule over you" 
(Jud. 8:23). 

Of all the threats from outside, the most formidable was 
that of the Philistines. Shortly after 1,200 B.C., the Philistines, 
one of the number of "sea peoples" 8 swarmed into the land and 
fell upon the Israelites. With their virtual monopoly of iron 
weapons (I Sam. 13:19-22) the Philistines began to dominate 
Israel piece by piece. The decisive blow came in the eleventh 
century B.C., when the Philistines routed Israel at the battle 
of Ebenezer in which Israel was cut to pieces, the Ark of the 
Covenant captured, the priests killed, and the sanctuary of Shiloh 
razed to the ground (I Sam. 4). It was the severest military 
defeat ever suffered by the people of Israel. 9 It seemed clear to 
the people of Israel that the older order of theocracy, so long 
preserved by the charismatic judges, had failed. 

In the face of this national crisis, the people of Israel 
demanded a visible king who might hold the unity and strength 
of the people and defend the nation effectively. 

III. Administration through Kings 

The enigmatic behavior of Samuel, the last judge and a 
prophet, needs to be seen in the light of the Philistine threats. 
When the people demanded a king, he interpreted that the 
demand had been prompted by unbelief and insofar was 
rebellion against God. Yet he was soon enlightened to the under- 
standing that it was not in itself at variance with the theocratic 


principle. So Samuel, having obtained God's permission, anointed 
Saul king over Israel (I Sam. 8:4-22, 9:15—10:1). 

In reality, King Saul was not very much different from 
the judges of the past. He, like the judges before him, was a 
charismatic leader upon whom the Spirit of God rushed for the 
defence of Israel (I Sam. 11:6-15). In this sense, he was God's 
son, a vicegerent of God, and an administrator of theocracy 
(II Sam. 7:14). Thus the sense of God's sovereign rule over 
Israel was not impaired by the change of national polity. Indeed, 
under the leadership of King Saul, Israel succeeded in breaking 
the Philistine hold on the central highland (I Sam. 13 — 14). 

David, the next king, too, was a man of charisma. His 
brilliant exploits were evidence that the Spirit of God was upon 
him (I Sam. 18:6-7, II Sam. 5:1-5, 18:7). Under his able leader- 
ship the Philistines were finally subdued and never again were 
they a serious menace to the people of Israel (II Sam. 8:1). 

When Solomon inherited the throne, however, there was a 
change. There was no reference to his charismatic qualities. 
Solomon was acclaimed a king, not because he was a man of the 
Spirit of God but because he was born a favored son of David 
(I Kings 1 :5-40). The leadership of Israel which had been pro- 
vided by God through the men of His Spirit was now taken up 
by the sons of David. Charisma had given way to dynasty. The 
people of God had become the kingdom of Israel, the citizens of 
the Davidic state. 

Ideally, however, it was believed that God had made a 
covenant with David and his descendents, and that the Davidic 
kings were none other than God's earthly representatives to rule 
over Israel as His vicegerents (II Sam. 7 :4-17) . Thus once again, 
the theocratic principle remained unimpaired by the establish- 
ment of dynasty. 

The danger in such a situation was obvious. The purposes 
of God on earth were erroneously equated with those of the 
kings. As God called the king His son (Pss. 2:7, II Sam. 7:14) 
and promised to make him "the highest of the kings of the earth" 
(Pss. 89:27), it was easy for Israel to identify the works of 
God with those of their king. It was against such a temptation 
that the prophets of God played their magnificient role in 
Israel. 10 

IV. Purification through Prophets 

The glory of theocracy was its prophets, for the prophets 
were, more than any others, the true organs of theocracy and 


the purifiers of it. It was they who, as the inspired spokesmen 
of God, denounced the false identification of the rule of God 
with that of the kings. Under the powerful Spirit of God they 
unhesitatingly proclaimed the word of God to Israel and drama- 
tically lived out God's message for His people. 11 Their watch- 
word was "Thus saith the Lord." Indeed, they kept the rule of 
God alive in the covenant community of Israel. 

During the reign of King David, for instance, it was Gad, 
a prophet, who pronounced the judgment of God upon the king 
for taking the census (II Sam. 24:13-14). It was the prophet 
Nathan who called King David a murderer to his face, and made 
him submit to the rule of God, the King on high (II Sam. 

Following the death of King Solomon, the prophet Ahijah 
encouraged Jeroboam to rise against the house of David (I Kgs. 
11:26-35). When King Rehoboam mustered his forces to quash 
the uprising, another prophet Shemaiah commanded the king 
to desist, declaring that the rebellion was God's will (I Kgs. 
12:21-24). Eventually, the rebellion led to the split of the 

From the early days of its split, the Northern Kingdom of 
Israel tended to desist the traditional faith of Israel. In the ninth 
century B.C., King Ahab openly persecuted the prophets (I Kgs. 
18:4, 19:14). It was at that time that the prophet Elijah waged 
a holy war against the king, his family, and the votaries of the 
pagan god, Baal. 

In the following century, it was the lot of the prophets, 
Amos and Hosea, to proclaim an unequivocal doom over Israel. 
And the doom came with incredible speed, when the Assyrians 
overran Israel in the latter part of the eighth century B.C. 

Now the hope of Israel rested with the Southern Kingdom 
of Judah. Yet the south too shared the sins that caused the fall 
of the north. The Southern Kingdom, too, would fall, declared 
the prophets Micah and Isaiah (Mic. 3:9-12, Isa. 5:1-7). But 
the doom which the prophets proclaimed upon the people did not 
abdicate God's rule over His people. On the contrary, the proph- 
ets insisted that the fact of judgment was the sure sign of God's 
rule over Israel. 

Furthermore, the prophet Isaiah declared that because God 
ruled over Israel, after the destruction of the Kingdom of Judah, 
there would be a "holy seed" (Isa. 6:13), a remnant, cleansed 
and made amenable to God's purpose (Isa. 10:20-22, 37:30-32). 
Thus, the hope of God's rule began to shift from the nation to 
a community within the nation. A distinction began to be drawn 


between physical Israel and the true Israel, the actual Israel 
and the ideal Israel. 

The prophet Jeremiah of the sixth century B.C. continued 
and further developed the theme of remnant. He declared that 
God was executing His judgment upon Judah through the 
Babylonians. Therefore, he asserted, Judah should submit to the 
yoke of Babylon, for to rebel against it would be to rebel against 
God and to court certain destruction (Jer. 27:5-11). 

Naturally, Jeremiah was hated by his own people and was 
treated as a traitor. In loneliness he turned to God for consola- 
tion, and by and by his message began to stress the inner and 
individual character of life. He called individual Israelites within 
the nation to turn to God and decide to live under His rule. Thus, 
in Jeremiah the notion of the remnant became highly individ- 
ualized. One day, he declared, God would make a New Covenant 
with those who turn to Him, and He would rule over them as 
His own people (Jer. 31:31-34). 

As prophesied by Jeremiah, the destruction of Judah became 
a reality by the onslaught of the Babylonians in the sixth century 
B.C. Thousands of Israelites perished in the struggle, a large 
number of leaders were deported to Babylonia, and cities of the 
nation were burnt to the ground. The national existence of Israel 
came to a tragic end. 

V. Reprojbction through Apocalypse 

Now that history had brought the end of the nation of Israel 
by the hands of a pagan army, was it the end of theocracy in 
Israel? No, on the contrary, the end of national life was, 
according to Jeremiah and Ezekiel, God's due judgment upon 
the sinful Israel, a sign of His continuous rule (Jer. 16:10-13, 
Ezk. 14:12-23). It was a time for the remnant of Israel, the 
captives in Babylon, to live out their faith in God without the 
benefit of the nation and of the Temple (Jer. 29:1-9). 

The number of Israelites who had been deported to Babylon 
was not very large (Jer. 52:28-30), but it was the cream 
of Israel's leadership. It was they who would shape the future 
of Israel. And their faith proved, as it had done so many other 
times, that it had the stamina to survive, the elasticity to over- 
come national disaster. 

In Babylon, the faithful captives took care to preserve the 
historical records of God's work. The sayings of the prophets 
which had come true so powerfully over their lives, were 
remembered, preserved, and written down. 12 At the same time 


they sought to observe and obey the detailed laws of God 
in earnest. Furthermore, they persisted in the hope that God 
would some day let them return home and carry out His purpose 
and fulfill their mission in the Promised Land. 

This incredible hope of the captives of Israel came true, 
when Cyrus the Persian overthrew the Babylonians in the latter 
part of the sixth century B.C. Cyrus the Great, one of the great 
men of the ancient Near East, a man designated by a prophet 
as God's "shepherd" (Isa. 44:28) and "anointed" (Isa. 45:1) 
was a man of enlightenment. In the first year of his conquest, 
he decreed that the captives of Israel be freed and repatriated 
to Judea to rebuild their country and practise their faith (Ezra 
1:1-4, 7-11, 6:3-5). In response, the enthusiastic exiles took 
their arduous trek home to Jerusalem. A restored community 
of Israel came into being in the Promised Land. 

In the restored community of Israel there was no king, and 
the office of the high priest became most prominent (Hag. 2:2, 
Zech. 3:1). Under the priestly guidance the returnees sought 
to regulate their lives by the meticulous observances of the Law. 
As a whole, however, the great hope of the returnees soon 
encountered cruel disappointment. The community was merely a 
small collection of poverty-stricken people on a tiny land in the 
vast Persian Empire. There was hardship, privation, and 
insecurity in the land. The people suffered by poor seasons, crop 
failures and constant harrassment of their hostile neighbors 
(Hag. 1:9-11, 2:15-17, Neh. 4:1-15). But it was the integral 
part of Israel's faith that it would not give up the confidence 
in the ultimate victory of God for Israel. 

Time passed. The ruling authorities changed hands, the 
Persians were replaced by the Greeks, the Greeks by the Egypt- 
ians, and the Egyptians by the Syrians. The little community 
of Israel eked out their existence through the vicissitudes of 
history, persisting in the hope that the day of redemption would 
soon come for Israel. 

In the days of the tyrannical domination of the Syrians, 
in the second century B.C., the condition of the Israelites 
became intolerable. Under such circumstances, the frustrated 
hope of Israel became a desperate longing for the intervention 
of God on their behalf. It was in such a situation that 
there emerged the phenomenon known as apocalypse, 13 which 
kept alive Israel's faith in the triumphant rule of God. 

Apocalypse is a type of literature couched in cryptic 
language dealing with the end of time. By means of strange 
visions, mystic numbers, and figures of awesome beasts, it des- 


cribed the great dreams of the end of time. It told how God would 
intervene on behalf of His people to wind up the affairs of the 
world, to judge His foes and to set up His kingdom for 
His people. It described the unbearable events of the present as 
foreshadows of the cosmic struggle between God and evil, and 
when it reached its climax, God would bring His Kingdom. The 
Book of Daniel in the Old Testament bears such witness. 

Like all the hopes of Israel, the apocalypse pointed to a 
solution beyond itself. It reprojected the rule of God over Israel 
beyond the horizon of the Old Testament. In the time of great 
despair, it prepared the way for the coming of the Kingdom of 
God on earth. 

And in the fulness of time, according to the Gospel of Mark, 
"Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and say- 
ing, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; 
repent and believe in the gospel' " (Mk. 1:14-15). Furthermore 
it is the unanimous affirmation of the New Testament that this 
Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah, and that in him all the hope 
of Israel finds its true fulfillment. Thus, theocracy in the Old 
Testament reaches its climactic phase in the coming of the King- 
dom of God in Jesus Christ. 


i Webster's New International Dictionary (2nd ed.; Springfield, 
Mass.: G. & C. Merriam Co., 1959), p. 2619. 

2 F. Josephus, Against Apion ii. 16. 

3 G. von Had, Old Testament Theology, vol 1 (Edinburgh: Oliver 
and Boyd Ltd., 1962). 

4 The Covenant idea is so important that W. Eichrodt has recon- 
structed the entire Old Testament theology around it. See his Theology of 
the Old Testament (tr. by J. A. Baker, Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 

5 H. H. Rowley, "Moses and the Decalogue," Bulletin of the John 
Rylands Library 34 (Sept., 1951), 81-118. 

6 G. E. Mendenhall, "Covenant Forms in Israelite Tradition," The 
Biblical Archaeologist, XVII (May, 1954), 50-56. 

7 W. F. Albright, Archaeology and the Religion of Israel, (Balti- 
more: John Hopkins Press, 1942), pp. 95-110. 

8 For historical references throughout the article consult John 
Bright, A History of Israel (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1964). 

9 It was an irony of history that the Promised Land be called 
Palestine, a word derived from the Philistines. 

10 For further information on the theme, see John Bright, The 
Kingdom of God (New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1953). 

1 * For the discussion on the symbolic acts of the prophets, see B. D. 
Napier, "Prophet," The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, vol. 3, 

i 2 For further study on the subject consult O. Eissfeldt, The Old 
Testament: An Introduction (tr. by P. R. Ackroyd, New York: Harper 
and Row, 1965). 

13 For bibliography on apocalypse see H. H. Rowley, The Relevance 
of Apocalyptic (London: Lutterworth Press, 1944). 







no Theological 


Winona Lake, Indiana 46590 

Ashland Theological Seminary 

Ashland, Ohio 

Spring 1973 

Ashland Theological Seminary 
Ashland, Ohio 


Spring, 1973 


Introduction to the Current Issue 

The Editor 2 

That Dictionary Man, Walter Bauer 

Jerry R. Flora, Th. D. 3 

The Development of Institutional Organization 
in the Early Church 

Bruce M. Metzger, Ph. D. ----- 12 

Epistolary Literature in the New Testament 

Louis F. Gough, Th. D. - - - - - - 28 

■ « » ■ » > 

Editorial Committee: Owen H. Alderfer, editor 

Joseph N. Kickasola 
Joseph R. Shultz, Vice President 

Vol. VI. No. 1 

Published by Ashland Theological Seminary, Ashland, Ohio 44805 


Introduction to the Current Issue 

THE three articles in the current issue of Ashland Theological 
Bulletin focus on various aspects of New Testament study 
and New Testament times. 

The first article introduces the reader to Walter Bauer, the 
late German scholar by whose prodigious labors we have what 
is short-handedly known as the Arndt and Gingrich Greek 
Lexicon. Dr. Flora's account helps place some matters in per- 
spective relative to this monumental work and raises one's 
appreciation for Walter Bauer close to the level of awe. 

The last article considers the nature of epistolary material 
in the New Testament era, compares N.T. epistolary literature 
to contemporary forms, and classifies the epistolary literature 
of the New Testament in light of the findings. 

Bruce Manning Metzger, a name no doubt familiar to most 
Bulletin readers, is guest writer in this issue. His article is 
transcribed from one of four lectures in the Fall Lectures at 
A.T.S. titled "The Development of the Ministry and the Role 
of the Laity in the Early Church." Dr. Metzger describes the 
shape of leadership in the earliest years of the Christian church 
and traces the process of change that took place in the church 
leading to later patterns of leadership. 

Owen H. Alderfer, editor 

Contributors to this Issue 

Jerry R. Flora is Assistant Professor of Christian Theology at A.T.S. 
Louis F. Gough is Professor of New Testament at A.T.S. 

Bruce Manning Metzger is George L. Collard Professor of New 
Testament at Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, New Jersey. 
Professor Metzger has completed advanced degrees at Princeton Theological 
Seminary and Princeton University, has been a member of the Institute for 
Advanced Study in Princeton, and Resident Scholar at Tyndale House, 
Cambridge. He holds honorary degrees from numbers of institutions here 
and abroad. 

Dr. Metzger is the author of numerous scholarly books including Index 
to Periodical Literature on the Apostle Paul, Introduction to the Apocrypha, 
and A Textual Commentary in the Greek New Testament; he has published 
scores of scholarly articles in professional journals; and he serves and has 
served as editor and on a number of editorial boards and boards of directors 
for scholarly publications and organizations and service institutions. 

That Dictionary Man, Walter Bauer 

Jerry R. Flora 

Time: about fifteen years ago. 

Place: the West German university town of Gottingen. 

Protagonists: two internationally-known New Testament 
scholars, one a young American, the other an elderly German, 
nearly blind. 

The latter, Professor Walter Bauer, commented bitterly 
about a new development. The monumental New Testament 
dictionary which he had painfully compiled, only recently trans- 
lated into English, was already being called by the names of its 
fine American editors. 1 Bauer, fearful of being forgotten, 
described the lexicon as "my life. I worked on it at least five 
hours a day, Sundays not excepted, for forty years. And the 
name of my life is Walter Bauer." 2 

Who was this man, and why was he so intent on preserving 
his name? What right did he have to feel so strongly? The pur- 
pose of this article is to describe a remarkable scholar and his 
sacrificial gift to the world — the finest dictionary of early 
Christian Greek ever assembled, an indispensable tool at the 
elbow of every student who takes the New Testament text 
seriously, whether he be pastor, professor, or seminarian. No 
other lexicon contains the wealth of material to be found in 
Bauer's work. 


Walter Felix Bauer was born August 8, 1877, in Konigsburg, 
the East Prussian city in which Immanuel Kant spent his life. 
Bauer's father was a professor in the university there, but the 
son took his own university training at Marburg, Berlin, and 
Strasbourg, which at that time was the capital of the German 
state of Alsace-Lorraine. 3 

Student and Teacher 

At Marburg Bauer studied under Adolf Julicher (1857- 
1938) , who taught New Testament and church history, and under 
Johannes Weiss (1863-1914), son-in-law of Albrecht Ritschl 
and professor of New Testament. Wilhelm Hermann, one of the 
most brilliant followers of Ritschl and Harnack, was teaching 
theology at Marburg during Bauer's student years there, and 
the philosophy faculty was dominated by the neo-Kantianism of 
Hermann Cohen and Paul Natorp. 4 

The University of Berlin was distinguished in the nine- 
teenth century by a galaxy of scholars such as Schleiermacher 
in theology ; Hegel in philosophy ; Niebuhr, Ranke, and Mommsen 
in history ; Lachmann in philology ; and Gunkel in Old Testament. 
Bauer went to Berlin in order to study under Otto Pfleiderer 
in New Testament and systematic theology and under Adolf 
von Harnack, whose encyclopedic magnetism attracted pupils 
there from 1888 to 1921. His career almost covered the period 
of Berlin's ascendancy in theology from 1871 to 1918. 5 

At Strasbourg the outstanding teachers for young Bauer 
were Emil Noldeke, an expert in Semitic and Syriac studies, 
H. J. Holtzmann (1832-1910). Along with Harnack, Holtzmann 
marked Germany's supremacy in the historical study of early 
Christianity between 1860 and 1900. 6 

Following his university training Bauer began at once to 
teach, first at Marburg and Breslau from 1903 to 1916, 7 then 
from 1916 to 1945 at the University of Gottingen. 8 He also began 
at once to publish, most of the publications during his long career 
being books, contributions in collective works, and reviews. 9 
His doctoral dissertation appeared in 1902, followed in quick 
succession by works on Syrian Christianity, the Johannine 
corpus, the New Testament apocrypha, the catholic epistles, New 
Testament theology, the Fourth Gospel, and nearly twenty major 
book reviews — all within the first decade of his professional 

Bauer was thirty-nine years old when he was called to 
Gottingen in 1916. For nearly three decades he taught in the 
home of the history of religions school until failing eyesight 
forced him to retire at the close of 1945. In retirement his eyes 
improved until he could read with the aid of a magnifying glass. 
He continued to pursue his research with diligence until he died 
on November 17, 1960, at the age of eighty-three. Following his 
death New Testament Studies paid special tribute to his labor, 
singling out for note his achievements as lexicographer, com- 

mentator, and historian of the early church. 10 Such recognition 
has not been accorded any other New Testament student of the 
last generation. 

The Big Dictionary 

Bauer's best-known work at Gottingen was the lexicon by 
which he made it possible for the Greek of the early Christian 
literature to be more thoroughly known than that of any other 
segment in the spectrum of Greek literature. 11 His dictionary 
began as a revised second edition of the earlier manual lexicon 
by Erwin Preuschen, who died in 1920. Bauer did not feel par- 
ticularly drawn to this kind of work, either by previous study 
or personal inclination; 12 however, in his university preparation 
he had studied both classical and Near Eastern philology. By 
the time the dictionary's fifth edition was completely published 
in 1958 one conclusion had become obvious : Walter Bauer was 
the greatest lexicographer in the history of the study of early 
Christian literature, both canonical and extra-canonical. 

The magnitude of Bauer's achievement may be more easily 
apprehended if the following factors are considered : (1) During 
his Gottingen career Bauer produced numerous other publica- 
tions, some of them major works, in his roles as author and 
editor. A few of these will be noted later. (2) Much of the lexicon 
was compiled during the National Socialist years of power and 
during World War II, although the doughty Prussian refused 
to bow to the Nazi regime. 13 (3) The postwar editions were com- 
pleted with great difficulty while the author, the publishing 
firm, and the printers were in three separate occupation zones 
in Germany. (4) The fourth and fifth editions (1952, 1958) 
were produced in spite of eye affliction and magnifying glass. 
(5) Even before the third edition (1937) Bauer had begun to 
search for parallels to early Christian use of Greek by systemati- 
cally reading every Greek author between the fourth century 
B.C. and the Byzantine period. (6) By his own accounting, as 
mentioned at the outset, he worked on the lexicon at least five 
hours a day, seven days a week, for forty years. Therefore, it 
becomes more understandable why the aged scholar was 
embittered that the English version of his life-work so quickly 
became known by the names of its American translator-editors. 

During the four decades in which Bauer toiled at lexico- 
graphy he also produced a large number of significant other 
works, although only a few can be singled out for notice here. 14 
His commentary on the Fourth Gospel, which went through 
three editions, drew from Bauer's prior study of the Mandaean 

materials, the Odes of Solomon, and the letters of Ignatius. It 
was Bauer's conclusion that the Fourth Gospel, in light of these 
other literatures, must have originated in Syria in gnosticizing 
circles on the edge of Judaism. 15 

He was also a frequent reviewer for scholarly journals, 
averaging five major reviews per year for forty-eight years in 
the monthly Theologische Literaturzeitung, which he edited from 
1930 to 1939. In addition, along with his colleague Joachim 
Jeremias, who joined him at Gottingen in 1935, Bauer was co- 
editor of the prestigious Zeitschrift fur die neutestamentliche 
Wissenschaft from 1949 until his death. He was also asked to 
contribute to such important works as all three editions of the 
German encyclopedia of religion in past and present (Die 
Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart: twenty-five articles in 
the second edition, most of them on early Christian apocrypha) 
and what is now the standard Hennecke-Schneemelcher- Wilson 
edition of New Testament Apocrypha. The impression begins 
to emerge that the biographical description was justified which 
said, "Specialization: free investigation in the history of 
religion." 16 

Although Bauer was a mature scholar in his own right when 
he went to Gottingen, he must have been acutely aware that he 
was going to the university where both Ritschlian liberalism in 
theology and the history of religions school of research had their 
homes. There as an independent investigator he sought to find 
his own path between traditional supernaturalism and radical 
environmentalism in understanding the origins of Christianity, 
how it became catholic, and how Catholicism became Roman. 
He demonstrated his originality and independence in Orthodoxy 
and Heresy in Earliest Christianity. 


This book, only recently translated into English, 17 has 
already influenced a generation of German study on the early 
church. As a piece of historical explanation, the theory Bauer 
proposed in Orthodoxy and Heresy was the antithesis of the 
traditional view posited by the early church Fathers. In place 
of a straight line of theology transmitted from Jesus to the 
apostles, Bauer saw a widespread diversity of views in the prim- 
itive church. Instead of an original orthodoxy being perverted 
by later heresies, he saw "heresy" as the earliest form of Chris- 
tianity in most regions of the Roman Empire, with "orthodoxy" 
coming later as a secondary development. Where the Fathers 
saw western Christendom heading up in Rome because that was 

the church where both Peter and Paul had labored and to which 
the central apostolic traditions had flowed, Bauer viewed the 
Roman church as a shrewd, disciplined community which, by 
means of power politics, imposed its will on the rest of the 
churches. In short, he interpreted the situation of Christianity 
ca. A.D. 50-200 as one of widespread diversity in which 
"heretical" forms of doctrine came early, but "orthodoxy" 
emerged comparatively late with Rome the key to its ultimate 

The significance of Bauer's work has been slow in winning 
recognition outside the sphere of influence dominated by Rudolf 
Bultmann. Both scholars emerged in the same context, studied 
under the same professors, and began their teaching careers 
at the same universities. However, while the investigation of 
orthodoxy and heresy was a strictly historical study for Bauer, 
Bultmann went a step further when he suggested that the 
beginnings of early Christian theology might be found here. The 
post-Bultmannians have now followed up Bauer's work, making 
the orthodoxy-heresy question a central problem in contemporary 
New Testament interpretation. 18 

When Bauer's book was published in 1934, he was fifty- 
seven years old, an internationally recognized scholar at the peak 
of his career. For a decade and a half he had been full professor 
in the Gottingen chair distinguished earlier by Wilhelm Bousset, 
and since 1930 he had edited the German monthly review of 
theological literature, Theologische Literaturzeitung. He was 
acknowledged as an expert lexicographer, biblical exegete, and 
historian of the early church. 

The Complete Scholar 

Bauer had issued a revised edition of Preuschen's manual 
lexicon in 1923 and was working in 1934 on a further revision 
so extensive that his name alone would appear on the title page. 
"Bauer" was becoming synonymous with lexicography. 

At the same time he was Germany's outstanding interpreter 
of the Fourth Gospel, his commentary on John having recently 
appeared in its third edition. As an exegete Bauer was chiefly 
interested in such matters as philological analysis, literary source 
criticism, and historical influences in the writer's environment 
— anything that might contribute to elucidating what the docu- 
ment signified in its original setting. He was a friend of the 
younger Bultmann, but he shared none of the latter's concern 
about interpretation for twentieth-century man. Bauer saw his 
task as solely that of explaining "what it meant"; when that 

was accomplished, he was content to hand over his work to the 
theologians and homileticians for their decisions on "what it 
means." 19 He was a specialist and would not trespass outside 
his area of expertise. 

Bauer was also an acknowledged authority in early church 
history. From the beginning of his scholarly career in 1902 he 
had investigated the primitive church and its development. His 
large work on Jesus in the New Testament apocrypha, published 
when he was thirty-two, was considered so significant by a later 
generation that it was reprinted nearly sixty years later. 20 He 
had demonstrated early interest and competence in studying the 
church of Syria and was sought out as an expert on matters 
pertaining to early rabbinic and Christian literature. 21 The 1934 
publication of his Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity 
climaxed thirty years of church historical investigation. 

Bauer continued to pursue his research in the lexicography 
of the New Testament and the other literature of the early 
Christians, finding here a field virtually unexplored in any 
scientific way. Therefore, as already noted, he announced his 
intention in the mid-thirties to search for parallels to early 
Christian language by systematically reading every Greek author 
between the fourth century B.C. and the Byzantine period. 22 
However, freedom for that kind of research demanded that some- 
thing else be eliminated. 

At Great Cost 

It would appear that around 1934 Professor Bauer decided 
to sacrifice his work in biblical exegesis and early church history 
in order to devote himself wholly to lexicography. There were 
other scholars, competent investigators, working in the first two 
areas, but no other name was on the horizon in the third field. 

Therefore, in 1933 Bauer published the third edition of his 
commentary on John ; after that he offered no other major con- 
tributions to New Testament exegesis. Several of his views were 
picked up and employed by Rudolf Bultmann in his great com- 
mentary which began to appear in 1941, 2J and Bauer seemed 
content to let his exegetical work continue in that manner. 

He climaxed his previous studies on the history of the prim- 
itive church with the 1934 appearance of Orthodoxy and Heresy 
in Earliest Christianity. In the same year he offered a precis 
of that work in article form, but he let the matter drop there. 
His new theory, at first virtually unnoticed, would have received 
more attention if he had continued to refer to it in later writings. 
He did comment privately that he regretted it had generated so 


little interest, 24 but he never returned to it in print although he 
actively engaged in research for another twenty-six years. 

That quarter-century would be devoted solely to the project 
of the lexicon, which he published in ever-enlarging editions 
(1937; 1952, from which the English version was made; and 
1958). Through the war years, the period of reconstruction, and 
his near-blindness Bauer toiled on to produce a finely honed 
tool for all who take the New Testament text seriously. He 
apparently closed the door on his work as commentator and 
historian about 1934 in order to spend the rest of his days search- 
ing through a thousand years of Greek literature in order to 
illuminate the early church's language. 

His scholarly career spanned nearly six decades, the first 
half of which (1902-ca. 1934) was devoted to study and writing 
in several areas, the latter half (ca. 1934-1960) being concen- 
trated on just one project. The publication of his theory on early 
Christian orthodoxy and heresy represented the mid-point of 
his life-work, but it was the end of his career as a historian and 
exegete. Much was lost to scholarship by this sacrifice. Yet, who 
would protest that the monumental dictionary which he produced 
did not justify his decision? 25 


1 The title page reads as follows: "A Greek-English Lexicon of the 
New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, by William F. Arndt 
and F. Wilbur Gingrich. A translation and adaption of Walter Bauer's 
Griechisch-Deutsches Worterbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments 
und der ubrigen urchristlichen Literatur, Fourth Revised and Augmented 
Edition, 1952. Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press." 

2 James M. Robinson, "Basic Shifts in German Theology," Inter- 
pretation, XVI (1962), 76. 

3 Founded in 1527, Marburg was the first university to be estab- 
lished without papal privileges. In 1905 it had 1,576 students and a library 
of 140,000 volumes (The Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th ed., XVII, 680). 
The Friedrich Wilhelm University of Berlin, begun only in 1810, enrolled 
5,488 students in the summer term and 7,154 in the winter of 1904-1905 
(ibid., Ill, 787). Strasbourg in the same period, with an enrollment of about 
1,400, boasted a library of more than 800,000 volumes (ibid., XXV, 984). 

4 Winfried Zeller, "Marburg, Universitat," Die Religion in Ge- 
schichte und Gegenwart, 3rd ed., IV (Tubingen: J. C. B. Mohr (Paul 
Siebeck), 1960), 735. By their "scientific" orientation Cohen and Natorp 
intended to be anti-speculative. For them, philosophy meant the theory 
of the principles of science and therewith of all culture (L. W. Beck, "Neo- 
Kantianism," Encyclopedia of Philosophy (New York: The Macmillan 
Company and The Free Press, 1967), V, 470). 

5 Karl Kupisch, "Berlin, Universitat," Die Religion in Geschichte 
und Gegenwart, 3rd ed., I (Tubingen: J. C. B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 1957), 
1058. At almost the same time as Bauer, Rudolf Bultmann (born seven 
years later in 1884) was taking his university training at Tubingen, Berlin, 
and Marburg, receiving his doctorate from Marburg in 1910. He names 
Gunkel, Harnack, Julicher, Weiss, and Hermann as all decisive influences 
in his preparation (Rudolf Bultmann, Existence and Faith: Shorter Writings 
of Rudolf Bultmann (New York: Meridian Books, 1960), pp. 283f.; C. W. 
Kegley, ed., The Theology of Rudolf Bultmann (New York: Harper & Row, 
Publishers, 1966), pp. xix-xx). 

6 Luigi Salvatorelli, "From Locke to Reitzenstein: The Historical 
Investigation of the Origins of Christianity," Harvard Theological Review, 
XXII (1929), 308. 

7 Bultmann taught at Marburg from 1912 until 1916 when he ac- 
cepted a call to Breslau, apparently to succeed Bauer. It was at Breslau that 
Bultmann wrote his History of the Synoptic Tradition, which appeared in 
1921, the year he returned to Marburg after one year at Giessen. He had 
moved to Geissen in 1920 as successor to Bousset, who had gone there in 
1916 from Gottingen (Bultmann, op. cit., pp. 284f.; Kegley, op. cit., pp. 

8 The standard reference sources contain a problem in the dates 
of Bauer's early teaching career. Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 
2nd ed., I, 798, places him at Marburg from 1903 to 1913 and at Breslau, 
1913-1916; however, the third edition, I, 925, places him at Marburg in 
1903 and at Breslau from 1903 to 1915. W. G. Kummel, who wrote the 
latter entry, agrees with the dating of the former reference in his Das Neue 
Testament: Geschichte der Erforschung seiner Probleme, 2nd ed. (Freiburg: 
Verlag Karl Alber, 1970), p. 574. The problem may be typographical rather 
than editorial. 

9 Cf. Claus-Hunno Hunzinger, "Bibliographic Walter Bauer," Theo- 
logische Literaturzeitung, LXXVII (1952), 501-504; "Nachtrag zur Biblio- 
graphic Walter Bauer," Theologische Literaturzeitung, LXXXVI (1961), 

10 Cf. New Testament Studies, IX (1962-1963), which, in addition 
to a portrait and biographical note (pp. If.), published the following assess- 
ments: F. W. Gingrich, "The Contributions of Professor Walter Bauer to 
New Testament Lexicography," pp. 3-10; Wilhelm Schneemelcher, "Walter 
Bauer als Kirchenhistoriker," pp. 11-22; Erich Fascher, "Walter Bauer als 
Kommentator," pp. 23-38. 

11 Gingrich, op. cit., p. 10. (The article was apparently a revision 
of a paper originally read at the 1952 meeting of the Society of Biblical 
Literature; cf. the note in Journal of Biblical Literature, XXII (1953), 

12 Ibid., p. 5. 

13 For the situation of Gottingen's theological faculty as one of the 
ten close to the Confessing Church, see John S. Conway, The Nazi Perse- 
cution of the Churches, 1933-45 (London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 
1968), pp. 191-195. 


14 For details, see Hunzinger, loc. cit. 

15 Walter Bauer, Das Johannesevangelium, 3rd ed. (Tubingen: 
J. C. B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 1933), pp. 241-244; cf. Fascher, op. cit., 
pp. 28-35. 

16 "Walter Bauer," Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 2nd 
ed., I ( Tubingen: J. C. B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 1927), 798. 

1 7 Walter Bauer, Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity. 
Trans, by a team from the Philadelphia Seminar on Christian Origins. Ed. 
by Robert A. Kraft and Gerhard Krodel (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 

i 8 Cf. Jerry R. Flora, "A Critical Analysis of Walter Bauer's Theory 
of Early Christian Orthodoxy and Heresy" (Th. D. dissertation, The Southern 
Baptist Theological Seminary, 1972), from which the material for this article 
was drawn.) 

19 Fascher, op. cit., pp. 3 If. For the relationship between "what it 
meant" and "what it means" as the crux of hermeneutics, see Krister Sten- 
dahl, "Biblical Theology, Contemporary," The Interpreter's Dictionary of 
the Bible (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1962), I, 418-432, especially pp. 
425-431 on "The Hermeneutic Question." 

20 Walter Bauer, Das Leben Jesu im Zeitalter der Neutestamentlichen 
Apokryphen (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1967 reprint 
of the original 1909 edition). 

21 For details, see Hunzinger, loc. cit. 

22 Gingrich, op. cit., p. 5. 

23 Rudolf Bultmann, The Gospel of John: A Commentary Trans, 
by G. R. Beasley-Murray, R. W. N. Hoare, and J. K. Riches (Philadelphia: 
The Westminster Press, 1971). 

24 Fascher, op. cit., p. 32. 

25 The University of Chicago Press in recent printings of the lexicon 
has added Professor Bauer's name to those of the translator-editors on the 
cover of the volume. Thus, Bauer's life-work in its English dress can readily 
be cited as Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich. 


The Development of Institutional 
Organization in the Early Church 

Bruce M. Metzger 

HISTORICAL evidence shows that the early church underwent 
a gradual development, so that what originally was one 
people of God eventually became a hierarchial organization. At 
first the whole church, taking over the terminology of the Old 
Testament, called itself the laos tou theou, the people of God. In 
the course of time we discover that the adjective laicos came to 
designate those members of the church that we would call today 
the laity, those members who had not received ordination. Thus 
there developed a great divide between the clergy on the one 
hand and the laity on the other. Solemn ordination or consecra- 
tion by the laying on of hands was the form of admission into 
the several orders. These developed further into the greater 
orders — the diaconate, the presbyterate, the episcopate — which 
were held to be of divine institution. Under these greater orders 
were the minor orders of a later date, ranging from that of the 
subdeacon to the following : the lectors in charge of reading the 
scriptures in the assembly and of taking care of the church 
books; the acolytes, who were followers of the bishops in their 
official duties and processions, who carried the bread and the 
water and lit the candles ; the exorcists, who by prayer and the 
laying on of hands cast out the evil spirits from the catechumens 
and frequently assisted in the ritual of baptism; the precentors 
or cantors, who took charge of the musical parts of the liturgy, 
singing of the psalms, the benedictions, the responses, etc. ; the 
sextons, who took care of the religious meeting rooms and at a 
later period had charge also of the church grounds ; and a variety 
of other suborders. 

Such are the chief external changes in the growth or 
organization. It is necessary to consider some of the inner 
motives and inner forces that led to so great a differentiation 
within the one people of God, producing these several ranks and 
levels of clergy and their assistants. As might be expected, 


scholars are not in agreement concerning the identification of 
these inner forces and motives that led to the growth of the min- 
istry. In fact, very basic differences exist as to the nature of 
the church itself. On the one hand, some have held — particularly 
persons concerned chiefly with studying the individual and his 
religious psychology — that the primitive church and its organ- 
ization involved nothing more than a group of believers united 
by external circumstances. They assume that the following is 
the order of priority : that the individual existed before the local 
congregation and that the local congregation existed before the 
universal church. They assume also that ecclesiastial officers 
and ministries were regarded purely as peripheral to Christian- 
ity — that they were concerned solely with administrative duties 
and the maintenance of order. Some of these people think that 
the spirit and the enthusiasm working in the earliest phase of 
the church did not fundamentally need any form or definite 
channel. The theory is that the inward spontaneity gradually 
yielded to the necessity of having a cohesive and regulative 
organization which was primarily administrative or juridical 
in nature, and this gave it something of a secular stance. Regular 
meetings and the practical needs of community life called for 
the institution of certain offices. It was only when the antici- 
pated return of Christ did not happen and the church began to 
establish itself in the world that the ordained ministers began to 
be accepted as something essential to the life of the church. The 
result, so it is held, was a wide variety in the organization in 
the church based solely on considerations of practical expediency. 
Doubtless there are some features of this picture that are 
valid, but there are other elements that need to be re-evaluated. 
For one thing, the key to the origin and nature of the church 
has been found to lie in Christ's own awareness that He was the 
Messiah, the Son of Man coming to gather and redeem the people 
of God. Around Him and among those whom He called to follow 
Him the kingdom of God took shape. There is reason to believe 
that Christ did not base His entire teaching on the supposition 
of the immediate parousia or the end of the age. There are say- 
ings of His which imply an interval between His death and His 
return on the Day of Judgment. For example, the parable of the 
wheat and the tares certainly suggests a rather extended period 
of maturation of both the good and the evil prior to the Day of 
Judgment. Furthermore, the institution of the Lord's Supper 
is one of those signs that shows that Christ expected the new 
way of life to be embodied in and about His person and that this 
should continue during the interim period. 


The church, then, is part of our Lord's deliberate purpose. 
It is not a "happenstance." It contains and continues an eschato- 
logical community of those whom Christ gathered about Himself 
during His life on earth. Therefore, the church created by Christ 
Himself is universal, yet appearing in the world in visible form, 
and is prior to its manifestation in local congregations. In other 
words, we may make the following points : First, the concept of 
"church" belongs primarily to a religious and not merely to a 
sociological or institutional dimension. As the body of Christ 
and as the Messianic bride invited to participate in the gifts of 
the Kingdom, the church is not merely a fellowship of persons 
of good will, a purely voluntary association, a social club. Second, 
the church is represented in the New Testament as a living 
organism whose unity arises from its relation to one God and one 
Lord Jesus Christ {e.g. Eph. 4:1-6). The church is not the prop- 
erty of the believers nor do the expressions, "My church," or, 
"Our church," reflect the New Testament emphasis upon the 
divine origin of the church as the ecclesia of God. Its members 
are knit together by a deeper than merely sociological kinship, 
and all their talents and services are regarded as a continuation 
of the life and activity of Christ Himself. For even after His 
resurrection Christ still works among mankind and offers them 
a way to salvation from and through their earthly conditions. 
Third, in the church human divisions and distinctions disappear 
(e.g. Gal. 3:28). ". . . there is neither Jew nor Greek, bond or 
free, male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (cf. 
Col. 3:11). Although local communities of believers were under 
the guidance of apostles, teachers, or bishops and other leaders, 
the church as a whole is described as "a brotherhood" (I Peter 
2.17; 5:9) in which nothing is known of sacerdotal grace or of 
an institutional hierarchy that separates laymen from clergy. 
All who belong to Christ are equipped for work in His service 
(Ephesians 4:12). This is strikingly stated in the words of 
Father Hans Kung in his provocative book entitled, The Church: 
"The priesthood of all believers consists in the calling of the 
faithful to witness to God and his will before the world and to 
offer up their lives in the service of the world. It is God who 
creates this priesthood and hence creates fellowship among be- 
lievers." He continues, "The priesthood of all believers is the 
fellowship in which each Christian, instead of living to himself, 
lives before God for others and is in turn supported by others. 
'Bear ye one another's burdens and so fullfill the law of Christ' 
Gal. 6:2." (p. 381). 

History leaves no record of any distinctively set-apart 


church buildings in the first and second centuries. The first 
sanctuary of which we have knowledge dates from towards the 
end of the second century or the beginning of the third. The 
assemblies of the Christian believers prior to this time met in 
house-churches. It is appropriate to ask how the early house- 
churches contributed to the experience of this fellowship among 
the individual Christian believers. New Testament accounts give 
us clues ; for example, prayer was held in the home of Mary, the 
mother of John Mark, in Jerusalem (Acts 12:12). There is the 
implication that this was not a meeting place of the whole church 
in Jerusalem but of only one group within the city. As the num- 
ber of Christians increased in Jerusalem it would become increas- 
ingly difficult for all the believers to meet in one house. For all 
ordinary occasions, at least, the total body was split into smaller 
groups which could be accommodated in private homes. As 
Christianity spread the same development would occur in other 
cities. When the synagogue was closed to Christian preachers — 
and this seems to have occurred early in the development of 
Paul's work in the cities that he visited — then the house-church 
dominated the situation. Only rarely could a public assembly 
hall be obtained. We read of at least one such occasion in Acts 
19:9 when the lecture hall of Tyrannus was engaged in the city 
of Ephesus. Therefore, if a locality other than the market-place 
was to be had it would have to be in the home of believers. 
Priscilla and Aquila made their home a center of Christian 
fellowship and teaching (I Cor. 16:19; Rom. 16:5). In the city 
of Laodicea a Christian woman named Nymphas was hostess to 
a group of believers (Col. 4:15). In the city of Colosse Philemon 
made available his home as a center for a band of disciples 
(Phil. 2). 

It is necessary to investigate what were some of the benefits 
as well as some of the limitations that were characteristic of 
these early house-churches where the fellowship of the believers 
took place. First, the house-church enabled followers of Jesus 
to have a distinctively Christian worship and fellowship from 
the very first days of the Apostolic Age. It was the hospitality 
of these homes which made possible Christian worship — the 
common meals and the courage-sustaining fellowship of the 
group. Second, the large part played by the house-churches 
affords a partial explanation for the great attention paid to 
family life in the letters of Paul and in other Christian writings. 
On many occasions entire households, including, no doubt, slaves 
in some instances, would come into the church as a unit. We must 
not regard it as a mere formality, therefore, when Paul speaks 


in his letters pointedly to husbands, wives, fathers, children, 
masters, and slaves concerning their relations and obligations, 
because the larger homes were as much under the eye of Chris- 
tians as is the minister's home in a small town today. Third, 
the existence of several house-churches in one city goes far to 
explain the tendency to party strife in the apostolic age. This is 
seen in the various schismatic groups in Corinth, for example, 
when various persons said, I am of Paul, I am of Cephas, I am 
of Apollos, I am of Christ; each group would have its own feel- 
ings of pride and prestige. Perhaps a squabble between Euodias 
and Syntyche in the church at Philippi had its origin in a conflict 
of personalities in the local house-church or churches (Phil 4:2). 
Fourth, a study of the house-church situation also throws light 
upon the social status of early Christians. Homes that were large 
enough to accommodate a considerable number of Christians at 
worship in one assembly must have been owned by persons of 
some considerable financial means. They would not need to have 
been extremely wealthy, but certainly in some of the early 
churches there were Christian believers that belonged not to the 
dispossessed proletariat but to the upper income brackets as well. 
So this gives us at least a little insight as to the range of the 
social status of early Christians. Fifth, the development of 
church polity can never be understood without reference to the 
house-churches. The host of such a group was almost inevitably 
a man of some education with a fairly broad background and 
at least some administrative ability. The very fact that he owned 
a house large enough to accommodate a great number of people 
would suggest that he had some qualities that could be useful in 
leadership. And so the house-church became a training ground 
for the Christian leaders ; everything in such a situation favored 
the emergence of that host as the most prominent and influential 
member of the group. And this would in turn be a step to the 
presbyterate and then to the monarchical episcopate. 

In the succeeding centuries we find evidence of the basic 
equality among these several local congregations of believers. 
We find, for example, instances preserved among the Greek 
papyri of Egypt of what we might call today certificates of 
transfer of church membership. I have looked at quite a number 
of these and they fall into a certain pattern or stereotyped 
formula in which the leader of the church at this place commends 
to the leader of the church in another city such and such a per- 
son or persons who are, as we would say today, "in good and 
regular standing" in that church, transferring their member- 
ship to the other one. To the best of my knowledge no such docu- 


ment has ever been found regarding the transfer of membership 
from one to another local congregation of a mystery religion 
— such as the Mithraic mystery cult, or the cult of Isis, or the 
Cybele mysteries. 

Such is a picture of the local congregations in the Greco- 
Roman world of the first couple of centuries. If one were to ask 
a Christian believer at that time where is the church, where is 
the ecclesia tou theou, the answer probably would have been to 
quote the words of Christ, "Where two or three are gathered 
together in His name, there is the church." This understanding 
". . . that I am in the midst of them," (Matt. 18:20) with a 
triumphant assertion that the Lord has risen indeed and is alive 
forever more, would constitute the victorious creed of the earliest 
stage of the church. The Lord is in the midst of those who believe 
on Him. He who is, and was, and is to come and who is working 
everywhere, is present wherever two or three are gathered 
together in His name. The answer then would be, "Where Christ 
is there is the church." 

It would also probably be pointed out that His word 
in Matthew 20:26 is appropriate for the church, that "the 
princes of this world exercise dominion and authority, but it 
shall not be so among you." That is, the Christian would have 
said that Christ is the one who binds and rules over the members 
of His church solely through the gifts of grace, the charismata, 
that are bestowed by Him through the Spirit, so that to 
one believer is given the gift of teaching, to another the gift of 
interpretation, to the third the gift of comforting. The gift of 
teaching is at the same time the gift of government. God's people, 
the ecclesia, is to be ruled not by man's word but by the word 
of God proclaimed by the divinely gifted teacher. And the 
ecclesia obeys the word of the teacher only if and so far as it 
recognizes therein the word of God. Thus the apostles built up 
and guided the church through the word. Besides the apostles, 
others called prophets and teachers were stirred up by God 
(I Cor. 12:28, etc.). Thus when the preaching of the word com- 
mitted to these people was proclaimed, the apostle can write, 
"When you come together every one of you has a hymn, or 
lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation" (I Cor. 
14:26). Although Paul has to write to correct aberrations at 
Corinth, in every one of these instances the word of God was 
alive to the edifying of the church, even if the special gifts of 
the apostle and prophet or teacher had not been given indis- 
criminately to all. Paul recognizes that the word of God is alive 
in every congregation of believers. The church has therefore 


no ultimate need of any one class of officials. All believers, by 
the Holy Spirit living within them, are bearers of the keys of 
heaven and of the royal power which is in the house of God given 
by the word of God. 

Of these several charismatic gifts of the Spirit to which 
Paul refers, that gift known as prophesying appears to have 
been favored by the apostle as best suited for the building up 
of the church. At the conclusion of his great hymn of Christian 
love in I Corinthians 13, the apostle continues in the first verse 
of Chapter 14, "Make love your aim and earnestly desire the 
spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy." Indeed, the 
author of the Epistle to the Ephesians goes so far as to declare 
that the church was built upon the foundation of the apostles 
and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone 
(Eph. 2:20). 

Who were these prophets? What was their work? Well, 
first of all, the writer does not think of them as Old Testament 
prophets and New Testament apostles ; otherwise he would have 
said that the church is built upon the prophets and the apostles. 
No, he puts it the other way — the church is built upon the 
apostles and prophets, that is, upon the New Testament apostles 
and the New Testament prophets. Primitive Christian prophecy 
is the inspired speech of charismatic persons through whom 
God's plan of salvation for the world and the community and 
His will for the lives of individual Christians would be made 
known. The prophet knows something of the divine mysteries 
(I Cor. 13 :2) . Agabus, for example, prophesied the great famine 
which would come on the world (Acts 11:28). Paul predicts the 
fate that awaits him at Jerusalem (Acts 21:10, 11). Neverthe- 
less, primitive Christianity does not consist only in the disclosure 
of future events through prophets. The prophet speaks out on 
contemporary issues. Thus, he tells what must be done in specific 
situations. He blames and censures. He praises and encourages. 
His preaching contains administration and comfort, the call to 
repentance as well as that of promise (I Cor. 14:3). The work 
of the prophet, then, in the New Testament is not just for the 
replacement of the human ego by a divine, prophetic rapture. 
Words like the word "soothsayer," or words like the expression 
"manic possession," are not used in primitive Christian proph- 
ecy. This does not mean, of course, that the New Testament 
prophets did not have ecstatic experiences. That they did may 
be deduced from the narrative in Acts 2 about the Day of 
Pentecost, from Acts 4:31, and so on. But prophecy is more 


important and ranks higher than speaking in tongues, the gift 
of glossolalia (cf. I Cor. 14:1, 5, 39). 

At the same time, according to Paul, the prophet in the 
congregation is not just a seer but he is a recipient and preacher 
of the Word of God. He is not one who is possessed by God and 
who has lost control over his senses and has to do what the 
indwelling power orders. The idea of alienation and ravings are 
foreign to the New Testament prophet. The primitive Christian 
prophet is a man of full self-awareness. When he is speaking he 
can break off if a revelation is given to someone else. When two 
or three prophets have spoken in the congregation others may 
remain silent even though something is revealed to them (I Cor. 
14:29 f.). The prophets, however, cannot influence the revela- 
tion itself. This comes from God with no co-operation on their 
part; the proclamation is of what is revealed to them, and this 
is in accordance with their own will. 

Paul gives preference, as already noted, to prophecy over 
the other charismatic gifts of grace (I Cor. 14:1). The prophets 
are repeatedly mentioned directly after the apostles. Not only 
in Ephesians but elsewhere the church is also said to be built 
upon the apostles and prophets (I Cor. 12:28, 29; Rev. 18:20, 
etc.). The function of the apostle was to bear testimony to his- 
torical happenings in the life and the ministry of Jesus, namely 
what Jesus said and did on this or that occasion in the past. The 
function of the prophet was to interpret the meaning of what 
Christ had said in the past at that place and time, for the present 
circumstances in the church and the life of the individual 
Christian here and now. So, we can see the co-ordinate balance 
of the work of apostles and prophets : apostles bearing testimony 
as to what had happened, and prophets explaining the import 
of this or that word in Christ's ministry for the present events 
at Corinth, at Philippi, at Rome, etc. 

Difficulties emerged, however, when false prophets ap- 
peared, who in their prophesying brought in all kinds of false 
teachings. Already in the New Testament there are warnings 
against the emergence of counterfeit prophecy. In I John 4:1-3, 
the author advises his readers, "Test the spirits, whether they 
are of God, for many false prophets have gone out into 
the world," and lead many astray. This is in fulfillment of what 
Christ predicted in the Sermon on the Mount, when He warned, 
"Beware of false prophets who will come to you dressed in 
sheeps' clothing but inwardly they are ravening wolves" (Matt. 


The early church had to devise some means of discrimin- 
ating between the true and the counterfeit prophet. A little 
document called the Didache, which is a church manual of the 
early second century, provides a simple rule of thumb that would 
discriminate between those who were fakers and those who were 
true. This document directs that if a person comes to one's home 
and says, "I have been sent by God to preach the Gospel in this 
community; I would like food and lodging while I'm here," one 
should take him in and show hospitality. If he stays another 
day, that is all right, says the Didache. He may even stay three 
days, but if he wants to continue living there, taking advantage 
of his host's generosity, one should mark him as a false prophet 
and have nothing to do with him. This kind of simple rule of 
thumb would help in some cases but not in every case. The 
Didache also says that consistancy of teaching and conduct is 
characteristic of a true prophet. He who does not practice what 
he preaches is a false prophet (Did. 11 :10). Above all, complete 
unselfishness is required of the prophet. If a man orders a special 
kind of food for himself, and especially if he asks for money to 
meet his personal requirement, he is a false prophet. The number 
of such imposters, according to the Didache, will increase in the 
last days. 

In this connection one should give attention to a very 
interesting second-century treatise, written not by a Christian 
but by a pagan named Lucian. Lucian was a pagan skeptic who 
was born in Samosata and traveled about widely. He gained a 
good university education and wrote many witty essays that 
have come down to us today. I suppose in his day he was some- 
thing like the late H. L. Menkin of Baltimore, the agnostic 
iconoclastic editor of the now defunct American Mercury Mag- 
azine. Lucian was eager to expose any quack, any kind of 
charlatan. He wanted nothing to do with chicanery or trickery. 
One of his books is entitled Alexander, the False Prophet. This 
book gives us some understanding of the kind of thing that early 
Christians had to face. A man named Alexander in his travels 
came to a small town in Asia Minor called Abonuteichos. He was 
looking for a place to set up shop as prophet of Apollo. He made 
a survey (a Gallup poll I suppose) of the residents living in 
Abonuteichos and considering that they were sufficiently 
gullible, decided to settle down there. He prepared his publicity 
in this way: having obtained an ostrich egg, he cracked open 
one end carefully and removed the contents. Next he took a small 
live snake and put it inside the empty shell, affixing a wad of 
sealing wax over the hole. Then at nighttime he went to the 


crossroads of the town of Abonuteichos and began to dig away 
the dust and mud and buried this egg that he had prepared. The 
next day, dressed in long saffron-colored robes typical of pagan 
prophets of that time and with his long hair flowing, he ran 
through the streets, clapping his hands and crying, "The god 
Apollo has sent me to be a prophet in your midst. You should 
consider yourselves very fortunate that Apollo has decided to 
have a prophet right here at hand for you to consult in 
Abonuteichos." Having gathered a crowd together he brought 
them to the crossroads and, after foaming at the mouth — for he 
had put some kind of soap in his mouth and made bubbles come 
out at the appropriate time — he fell down and scratched away 
the earth. Everybody was astounded when he took up the egg 
and held it before the crowd. Then, when he cracked it open and 
took out the live serpent, everybody knew that the god Apollo 
had authenticated Alexander, because the serpent was a dedi- 
cated mascot, as it were, of the god Apollo. This was a signal 
occurrence of divine inspiration, giving the seal of approval 
to Alexander. Well, as could be expected, the citizens of 
Abonuteichos were greatly impressed. 

Alexander set up a tent and gave advice to persons with 
problems in marriage, love, business — anything. The problem 
was written out on a piece of papyrus, folded up, and sealed with 
sealing wax. Handed in one day, the questioner was to come back 
in a day or two and the answer was given in public. The person 
was asked, "This has not been opened, has it? It is still sealed? 
Open it, but don't read it out, and I will tell you what Apollo 
has told me of the contents, and I will also give his answer to 
your problem." According to Lucian's account, this was not done 
free for nothing, but Alexander made a charge for his proph- 
ecies and soon grew rich. He even had to employ money changers, 
because people would come from other lands with currencies 
different from the local currency. Even such a person as a 
patrician nobleman from Rome had sailed over the sea and 
traveled to this little backwoods town of Abonuteichos to consult 
Alexander! Alexander had obtained a tame python which he 
would wrap around his body, and on occasion he would put the 
head of the python under his armpit while holding in his hand 
a paper-mache' head of a serpent. The lower jaw was hinged to 
operate by long horse hairs so that it could be made to open and 
close in the manner of a ventriloquist's dummy. The windpipe 
of a crane, connected at the back of the head of this "serpent," 
extended behind the curtain so that an accomplice behind the 
curtain could speak through the artificial head. In the dim light 


of the tent Alexander's accomplice would give out what Apollo 
had said. 

Lucian tells us that he was suspicious that Alexander was 
a charlatan. On one occasion, when people were passing along 
in front of Alexander and bending down and kissing the proph- 
et's hand, Lucian says he bent down and gave his hand a right 
good bite! Of course Alexander knew then that something was 
wrong, and said, "Psst! I'd like to talk to you privately for a 
moment." So, taking Lucian to one side he said, "I don't know 
what you suspect, but I'll give you a third of all my profits if 
you promise not to disclose what you imagine might be true." 
"No !" replied Lucian ; "I will not be bribed ; I'm going to write 
a book about you and expose you !" That's exactly what he did, 
and we have that book today exposing the trickery of this 
false prophet. 

Now, that is the kind of thing early Christians had to 
contend with. The New Testament told them they should show 
hospitality and entertain strangers. But when people would take 
advantage of their good nature, and bring all kinds of erroneous 
teachings as though they were being prompted in this case by 
the Holy Spirit, what was to be done? The testing of the prophets 
meant that some sort of government of charismatic ministries 
needed to be applied. As the church grew in numbers, and 
especially as the charismatic gifts had counterfeits, gradually 
the charismatic ministry came to be supplanted by a delegated 
ministry. We can see the beginnings of this movement, I think, 
already in the New Testament. 

In what follows the discussion will use such terms as mon- 
archy, oligarchy, and democracy in connection with the constitu- 
tion of the early church. I use these terms simply for pedagogic 
reasons so that we can quickly identify various kinds of church 
government. The terms monarchy, oligarchy, and democracy 
come from Aristotle's Politics, book 3, section 5, where he says 
very succinctly what is a fact : Either one, or a few, or the many 
must rule. If that is true in secular affairs it is true also in the 
church. By using these terms I do not mean to imply that the 
church constitution or church government depended originally 
on secular society; rather, we are using these terms for con- 
venience and identification. 

In the New Testament a predominantly monarchic adminis- 
tration is found reflected in the congregations that are referred 
to in what we call the pastoral Epistles, I and II Timothy and 
Titus. Here Timothy and Titus obviously play a prominent role, 
not, however, apart from the support of elders and others. Also 


in the church at Jerusalem certain tendencies to monarchy can 
also be discovered, as for example in the person of Peter, and 
after him James, the Lord's brother. At times they appear — 
at one time Peter and at another time James — as spokesman 
and leader of that congregation. For example, in Acts 15 at the 
Apostolic Council it is James who sums up and makes the final 
declaration of the conference. According to tradition preserved 
by Josephus as well as Eusebius, James remained the high priest 
or the caliph of the Jewish Christian Church until his death 
about A.D. 64. 

In general, however, the Jerusalem church was dominated 
by the oligarchy system. We read, for example in the first chap- 
ters of Acts, that it was jointly administered by all the apostles 
(first the eleven and afterwards the twelve when Mattias was 
elected) , and also jointly through the seven "deacons" who were 
appointed to look after the temporal needs of the widows. There 
was also a special class of elders present at the Jerusalem church 
(Acts 11:30, 15:2-22). 

Likewise the congregation as a whole had, juridically speak- 
ing, a decisive role to play. Such seems to be the case in Acts 
1 : 15-25 at the election of another apostle after the defection of 
Judas Iscariot. There were 120 Christians of Jerusalem present 
and that number is not without significance in Jewish consti- 
tutional law. According to the Jewish concept a town congrega- 
tion must have at least 120 men, in order to elect members to 
the Sanhedrin. While mentioning the number of people present, 
Luke in the first chapter of Acts shows not only that the election 
of Matthias was legally correct but also he ascribes considerable 
importance to the congregation in weighty matters. When the 
Apostolic Council was held we can also see that the congregation 
had a share, for ". . . it seemed good to the apostles and the 
elders with the whole church to choose men from among them 
and to send them to Antioch . . ." with the apostolic decrees 
(Acts 15:22). Therefore, though the members of the congrega- 
tion did not take part in the discussion and did not, it seems, 
vote in the decision, they did ratify and implement the decision. 
Therefore, it looks as though the Jerusalem church had a mixed 
or a complex constitution, where inclinations toward monarchy, 
oligarchy, and democracy were present together without being 
mutually exclusive or even in conflict. 

In the early second century the Didache says, "Elect, 
therefore, for yourselves bishops and deacons of the Lord, men 
meek, not lovers of money, truthful and approved for they too 


minister to you the ministry of the prophets and the teachers." 
Later the procedure is not so simple. Distinctions came to be 
made between the divine vocation, the lay recognition of the 
call or election, the liturgical formulae, and, finally, the installa- 
tion. Nevertheless, well into the Constantinian Age the laity still 
played an important part in the elevation of their bishops. 
Hippolytus in the Apostolic Tradition records the aforemen- 
tioned refinements, but he says (chapter 2, section 1) that the 
bishop is still "elected by all the laity." Origen observes that the 
bishop must be ordained "in the presence of the whole laity in 
order that all may know for certain that the man elected to the 
priesthood is of the whole people,, the most eminent and to avoid 
any subsequent change of mind or lingering doubt." And Cyprian 
makes a similar point. Cyprian, in fact, insists that just as the 
laity has the power of recognition they also have the power of 
withdrawing the jurisdiction of an unworthy cleric. So well 
known was the power of Christian lay people to approve or dis- 
approve their leaders that even the pagan emperor, Alexander 
Severus, who ruled from 222 to 235, adopted some of the Chris- 
tians' methods in selecting officials. He was obviously well 
acquainted with Christians because he knew the negative form 
of the Golden Rule and had it written on public pillars. He also 
had erected in his private chapel a statue of Christ along with 
statues of Abraham, Apollonius, and Orthus. He adopted from 
the Christians a practice of posting the names of his nominees 
to public office for the sake of securing public testimony as to 
their character, for he said, "It would be unjust, when Christians 
and Jews observed this custom in announcing the names of those 
who are to be ordained, that such a precaution should be omitted 
by us in the case of provincial governors, to whom were com- 
mitted the lives and fortunes of men." (Vita Alex., 45, 7)1 

In the third and fourth centuries, however, the rights of 
the laity come to be more and more restricted. The earlier right 
of laymen to baptize came to be restricted even from the time of 
Tertullian, who says that only in case of dire necessity could a 
layman baptize. Sermons given publicly by lay persons practically 
ceased in the third century, though it should be added that pro- 
vision for lay preaching was made in the Apostolic Constitutions, 
book 8, section 12. For a layman to preach in the presence of a 
bishop was particularly objectionable, on the testimony of 
Eusebius, Church History, book 6, section 19. The laity's distinc- 
tive right continued to be exercised in the election of the bishop, 
though this too became gradually circumscribed through the 
co-operation of other bishops in the province and through the 


rights of the metropolitan in the east. Similarly the congregation 
originally had the right to depose a bishop in case of grave short- 
comings, a prerogative still exercised in Cyprian's time, though 
contested as early as the time of the Roman Bishop Calixtus I 
(died in 222). 

Finally, it needs to be said that even the place in the church 
sanctuary where it was permitted that laity should sit eventually 
comes to be defined. A fourth century work, the Apostolic 
Constitutions, sets forth the following (in book 2, section 57) ; 
"The church building is like a ship ; in the middle let the bishop's 
throne be placed, and at each side of him let the presbytery sit 
down. Let the deacons stand near at hand, for they are like the 
mariners, the managers of the ship. With regard to these let the 
laity sit on the other side with all quietness and in good order. 
Let the women sit by themselves, they also keeping silence. And 
in the middle let the reader stand upon some high place. Let him 
read the books of Moses, of Joshua and the books of Job and 
Solomon and the prophets. But when two lessons have been read, 
let some other person sing the hymns of David. Let the people 
join in the conclusion of the verses. Afterward let our own Acts 
[the Apostolic Constitutions'] be read and the Epistles of Paul, 
our fellow worker. And afterwards let a deacon or a presbyter 
read the Gospels. And while the Gospel is being read let all the 
presbyters and deacons and all the people stand up in great 
silence. In the next place, let the presbyters one by one, not all 
together, exhort the people; and the bishop is in the last place, 
as being the commander. Let the porters stand at the doors of the 
men and observe them. Let the deaconesses also stand at the 
portals of the women like shipmen. But if anyone be found sitting 
out of his place, let him be rebuked by a deacon as a manager 
of the foreship and be removed into place proper for him. Let 
the young persons sit by themselves, if there is a place for them, 
and if not, let them stand upright. But let those that are already 
stricken in years sit in order. Let the younger women also sit by 
themselves, if there be a place for them ; but if there be not, let 
them stand behind the other women. Let those women which are 
married and have children be placed by themselves, . . . Let the 
deacons be disposers of these places that everyone of those who 
come in may go to his proper place and may not sit at the door- 
way. In like manner let the deacon oversee the people that no 
one may whisper, nor slumber, nor laugh, nor talk. All ought in 
the church to stand wisely and soberly and attentively, having 
their attention fixed on the word of the Lord. After prayer and 
before the Eucharist then let men give the men, and women give 


the women, the kiss of the Lord. But let no one do it with deceit, 
as Judas betrayed the Lord with a kiss." 

By way of summary, we see the development which the 
whole people of God, the laos tou theou, underwent in the early 
church. We find a gradual differentiation of functional differ- 
ences between clerical offices and the unordained. We find 
gradation at several levels. The complete clericalization in a 
graduated series of offices extended from bishop to doorkeeper. 
And this is reduced finally to the appointment of the special 
places where each one is to sit in the congregation. There is also 
the assimilation of the teaching and healing functions in the 
office of the bishop, with the delegated catechist under his super- 
vision. Earlier teaching and healing had been free or charis- 
matic, and in the ante-Nicene period the teachers had been 
formed into what was called a choir alongside the clergy. We 
see also that there was recruitment of a new type of convert in 
the Constantinian era with an accompanying loss of feeling of a 
radical distinction between the church and the world. The radical 
distinction that replaces what in pre-Constantinian times was the 
distinction between the unconverted and the church — the world 
and the believers — is now the distinction between those, on the 
one side, who are ordained as clergy, and the unordained on the 

Such a development called forth a comment from Chrys- 
ostom, who in this post-Constantinian time deplores the dimin- 
ution of a sense of participation that once was characteristic of 
the worship held in the house-churches. In the fourth century, 
when the congregation met in a grand basilica where liturgical 
responsibilty was confined more and more to certain persons, 
who "performed" in front of others, there developed a theater- 
like character of the worship. The laity now bring into the 
sanctuary, Chrysostom complains, what they practice in the 
theater, and when the minister makes a good point in his sermon 
the congregation applauds him. There are references to such 
applause in more than one sermon of Chrysostom, who rebuked 
the congregation for bringing the habits of the theater into the 
church. In one case the stenographer who was taking down the 
sermon verbatim indicates that the congregation even applauded 
Chrysostom's rebuke! Chrysostom movingly recounts the full 
meaning of the royal priesthood of God in which cleric and laic 
alike are on the same level — alike in Eucharistic offerings, in 
communion and prayers for the mutual fortification in Christ, 
and in the disciplinary functions of the church. Thereupon, 
Chrysostom challenges his congregation, "Now I have said all 


this that each of the laity may also keep his attention awake, 
that we may understand that we are all one body having such 
differences among ourselves as members with members, and may 
not throw the whole upon priests, but ourselves so care for the 
whole church as for a body common to us." The tone of this 
passage indicates that Chrysostom was longing for the good old 
days of the infancy of the church, before fellowship had come to 
be replaced by organization, and when the work of the Spirit was 
not yet so regularized, as to result, in some places, in being 
quenched entirely. 


Epistolary Literature op the 
New Testament 

Louis F. Gough 

BESIDES the two official letters included in the Acts 
of the Apostles, genuine letters written true to the con- 
ventional letter-form of the period in which they were written, 
the greater part of the New Testament is made up of 
books called epistles. These epistles have been treated in various 
manners and categorized in numerous ways in certain literary 

In R. G. Moulton's The Literary Study of the Bible and his 
smaller and later work, A Short Introduction to the Literature 
of the Bible the twenty-one books of the New Testament which 
are usually classified as epistles are categorized in the follow- 
ing way: 

Moulton divides the epistles under four main headings: 
(1) Pastoral Epistle or Pastoral Intercourse; (2) Epistolary 
Treatise; (3) Epistolary Manifesto; and (4) Wisdom Epistle. 

According to Moulton the common structure of the "pastoral 
epistle" over and above the formal greeting at the commence- 
ment and personal message at the close is of three distinct parts : 
(a) "Recognition of the mutual relations between the writer and 
the people addressed"; (b) "At the end is exhortation"; and 
(c) "Between the recognition and exhortation comes the doc- 
trinal discussion." 1 In this frame Moulton includes I Corinthians, 

II Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, I Thessalonians, II Thes- 
salonians, I Timothy, II Timothy, Titus, Philemon, II John, 

III John. 

The second group, "epistolary treatises," Moulton charac- 
terizes by their not being addressed to a particular church on 
the one hand, 2 and on the other hand the doctrinal discussion is 
a formal and ordered exposition. The Epistle of Paul to the 
Romans and the Epistle to the Hebrews are according to Moulton 
"epistolary treatises." 

The next class of epistles are the "epistolary manifestos." 
Moulton writes : "Distinct from the pastoral epistles, which are 
concerned with the government of the churches, the manifesto 


is rather an act of faith : not a discussion of details, but a reas- 
sertion of the Christian hope in all its fulness, coloured in its 
form by the particular circumstances which have called it 
forth." 3 Moulton includes under this heading Ephesians (further 
described as a circular epistolary manifesto), Colossians, I Peter, 
II Peter, Jude, I John. 

Moulton includes the remaining book, the Epistle of St. 
James, in his group of "wisdom literature" along with Matthew 
and the Fourth Gospel. According to him this branch of litera- 
ture is characterized by its being a "miscellany of sayings, 
essays, and discourses ... a collection of meditations on 
life. ... It is Wisdom Christianized." 4 In support of his argu- 
ment Moulton writes: "In this work there is nothing of the 
epistle except the superscription. The regular order of thought 
which appears in Hebrews or Romans is lacking; nor is there 
a trace of that reference to affairs of a particular church which 
characterizes the pastoral epistles." 5 

C. A. Briggs thinks of the "epistle" as a form of prose 
literature. He characterizes the Biblical epistle in this manner: 

[The epistle] is the contribution of the Aramaic language to the 
Old Testament in the letters contained in the books of Ezra and 
Nehemiah. ... In the New Testament . . . the epistle receives its 
magnificent development in the letters of St. James, St. Peter, St. Paul, 
St. Jude, and St. John — some familiar, some dogmatic, some ecclesi- 
astical, and some pastoral, some speculative and predictive, and in the 
Epistle to the Hebrews we have an elaborate essay. 6 

Recent discoveries of papyrus letters of all kinds — familiar 
letters, business letters, petitions, complaints, applications, and 
official letters ranging in their dating from the Roman conquest 
of Egypt to the tenth century A.D., particularly the letters of 
Qxyrynchus — have thrown great light on the literary study of 
the epistles of the New Testament. Studies have been made in 
these Greek papyri and certain conclusions as to the general 
characteristics have been drawn. In light of what seems to be 
the most consistent and trustworthy of the conclusions of these 
studies, I shall try to characterize and arrange the New Test- 
ament Epistles. 

Adolf Deissmann in full cognizance of the abounding re- 
search which has been made in the growth of the New Testament 
and the origin of its several parts is also aware of the paucity 
of literary historical study which has been done in the New 
Testament in its relation to ancient literature. To such a need 
he addresses himself in Light from, the Ancient East and in 
another of his works, Bible Studies. 


Deissman makes a sharp distinction between literary and 
non-literary books of the New Testament in their original forms, 
that is before they became a canonical corpus. He calls attention 
to the non-literary character of leases, application, receipts, 
letters, and other writings, which he characterizes as products 
not of art but of life. 7 Particularly as touching the "letter" he 
writes : "A letter is something non-literary, a means of commun- 
ication between persons who are separated from each other. 
Confidential and personal in its nature, it is intended only for 
the person or persons to whom it is addressed, and not at all for 
the public or any kind of publicity." 8 

The "epistle" is different; it is a work of art, which is merely 
cast in the form of the "letter." Without these drapings most 
epistles are intelligible whereas the address, personal references, 
and subscription are essential to the intelligibility of the "letter." 
In the "epistle" all that seems letter-like is mere ornament; if 
any of the ornament crumbles off the character of the whole 
thing is not essentially altered." 9 

Whereas the "letter" is not intended for publication, the 
"epistle" is written with a general public in mind for its readers. 
The "letter" rises spontaneously out of a life situation, and its 
purpose is to communicate to a situation of a limited temporal 
duration. Not so with an "epistle." "As an artistic literary form 
the epistle has no intention of being transitory. Being published 
from the first in a considerable number of copies it cannot so 
easily perish as a letter, of which there is only one or at most 
two copies made." 10 The private character of the "letter" is a 
very distinctive characteristic. 11 Good examples of the ancient 
epistolography, which was written with the probability of pub- 
lication in view, are the works in Greek of Dionysius and of 
Plutarch ; and in Latin, the letters of Seneca and of the younger 

In the light of these judgments Deissman concludes that the 
study of the ancient papyrus letters along with certain ostraca 
and letters written on lead, newly discovered, 

obliges us to maintain that in the New Testament there are both non- 
literary letters and literary epistles. . . . [And that] the letters of Paul 
are not literary; they are real letters, not epistles; they were written 
by Paul not for the public and posterity, but for the persons to whom 
they are addressed. 12 

Some letters, however, which were non-literary epistles at the 
time of their writing, their publication never entering the mind 
of the writer, have been raised to the literary level subsequent 
to their serving the direct purpose for which they were written. 


The letters of Aristotle and of Cicero are examples of this liter- 
ary process. So it was with the letters of Paul. Deissmann comes 
to the second conclusion that although the Pauline Epistles were 
not in their original form real "epistles," yet they were later 
raised to the level of literary letters, stated in Light from the 
East, page 239: 

St. Paul was not a writer of epistles but of letters; he was not a liter- 
ary man. His letters were raised to the dignity of literature afterwards, 
when the piety of the churches collected them, multiplied them by 
copying and so made them accessible to the whole of Christendom. 
Later still they became sacred literature, when they were received 
among the books of the "New" Testament then in process of forma- 
tion; and in this position their literary influence has been immeasurable. 

Therefore in the light of these judgments, how does Deissmann 
categorize the books of the New Testament? 

Deissman classifies the epistolary content of the New Test- 
ament as follows : 

Letters: Philemon, 13 I and II Corinthians, 14 I and II Thessalonians, 15 

Galatians, II and III John 16 (real letters), and Romans. 17 

Literary epistles: Hebrews, 18 James, 19 I and II Peter, and Jude.. 20 

Deissmann classifies the Apocalypse of John as an epistle: 

The "Apocalypse of John," however, is strictly speaking an epistle: 
it has in 1:4 an epistolary praescript with a religious wish, and 22:21 
a conclusion suitable for an epistle. The epistle is again subdivided at 
the beginning into seven small portions addressed to the churches in 
Asia. . . . They represent, however, ... a more letter-like species 
of epistle than those we have been considering. The writer wishes to 
achieve certain ends with single churches, but at the same time to influ- 
ence the whole body of Christians, or at any rate Asiatic Christians. 21 

He classifies James as a religious diatribe. Of I John he writes : 

[I John] has more of the specific characters of an epistle, and is, of 
course, even less like a letter. The little work has got along with the 
epistles, but it is best described as a religious diatribe, in which Chris- 
tian meditations are loosely strung together for the benefit of the com- 
munity of the faithful. 22 

Approximately fifty years ago Francis Xavier J. Exler made 
a study of Greek epistolography, in which he examined hundreds 
of Greek papyrus letters dating from the third century B.C. to 
the third century A.D. 23 He reached two conclusions: (1) The 
material at hand does not warrant any conclusions concerning 
the origin of the Greek epistolary form. In other words he found 
that the Greek letter-form used for six hundred years at the turn 
of the era is of ancient origin and development. (2) "There is 
a remarkable similarity in the letter-forms throughout the 
Ptolemaic and the Roman periods." 24 


Exler was able at the end of his study to form certain general- 
izations as to the nature and form of the Greek letters which he 
examined. He found a certain style of letter writing in which the 
writer consistently employed a certain set of formulae. Following 
is a list of ten of these formulae which will help us to make a 
literary categorization of the twenty-one epistolary books of the 
New Testament, which has been the object of this study : 

1. The basic formula: A — to B — , charein (may you be happy) 
is used in all sorts of letters: private letters, business letters, commun- 
ications between officials, as well as in letters from or to officials. [3rd 
century B.C. to 3rd century A.D.] 25 

2. Throughout the Ptolemaic and Roman periods the formula A — 
to B — , charein is by far the most common. 26 

3. Familiar letters having the opening formula A — to B — , charein 
are followed by the closing formula erroso (may you fare well) or 
one of its modifications. Most official letters use the same final salu- 
tation. . . . [Some] have no special formula at all, but simply omit 
the final salutation. 27 

4. During the Roman period it was a common custom to add greet- 
ings at the end of letters. These aspasasthe (greet) phrases appear in 
various forms. 28 

5. The closing phrases are greatly varied by the addition of terms 
of familiarity. 29 

6. The apostrophic formula chairois . . . chaired were not 
necessarily employed by the uneducated . . . the writer was at liberty 
to use a less formal mode of address if he chose to do so. 31 

7. In other than familiar letters a declaration was attached regard- 
ing the identity of the scribe. 32 

8. Throughout the entire period . . . there is a remarkable similar- 
ity in the formulas employed. Their phraseology remains substantially 
the same. Yet so great is the variety in detail, that hardly any two 
forms are quite alike. 33 

9. Among the opening formula we meet the phrase charein kai dia 
pantos hugiainein (may you always be happy and in good health) as 
early as the latter half of the first century B.C. . . . The hugiainein 
wish makes its first appearance in the papyri in the beginning of the 
first century A.D. 34 

1 0. Very frequently the letters are without any date whatsoever . . . 
in private letters the date is missing almost as frequently as it is given; 
and in official letters the absence of the date is not rare. 35 

In the light of these conclusions and those of Deissmann 
and Moulton, we shall examine the epistolary literature of the 
New Testament, Pauline first and the remaining epistles second, 
as to their usage of the Greek letter-form and place in epistolary 

The first striking thing about the Pauline letters is the 
consistency with which Paul used the conventional opening 
formula of the Greek letter form, of course with certain modifi- 


cations, which we should expect in view of his Christian concept 
of providence, of peace, and joy. In every one of his thirteen 
letters Paul utilizes the A — to B — charein formula. Paul in 
nominative (together with other co-writers in the case of Gala- 
tians, Colossians, I and II Thessalonians, and Philemon) identi- 
fies himself as the apostle, or servant, or prisoner of Jesus 
Christ and the Father. In the case of the Thessalonian corres- 
pondence the identification is left out. Here, however, Paul 
identifies himself with Silvanus and Timothy who are brothers 
and co-laborers in Christ. In every case following the name of 
the writer with certain identification and comment appears the 
name of the addressee in the dative case. 

The next member of the opening formula, charein (be 
happy) is consistently rendered charts (grace) by Paul because 
of his understanding of the source of the Christian's joy and 
victory. To this charts Paul adds eirene (peace) and in the case 
in I and II Timothy is added eleos (mercy) . The phrase "Grace 
to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" 
stands also intact with only slight variation in every letter except 
in the Timothy correspondence and in I Thessalonians, where it 
is merely abbreviated. 

The convention of a salutation at the end of the letter 
erroso, errosthe, eutuchei (lucky) is consistently observed by 
Paul. Here the Christianized concept is almost invariably used 
He charts tou kuriou hemon Iesou Christou meth' humon in 
Colossians, I and II Timothy, and Titus a shortened form is used. 

The common custom of greeting at the end of the letter the 
aspasasthe (greet) with occasional addition of terms of familiar- 
ity is also very noticeable in Paul's letters ; viz., Romans, I and 
II Corinthans, Philippians, Colossians, I Thessalonians, II Tim- 
othy, Titus, and Philemon. 

With this cursury examination of the literary forms for 
writing used by Paul it is readily seen that the Apostle consis- 
tently wrote his letters within the bounds of the conventional 
letter writing of his time. To be sure, he exercised certain 
liberties in the usages of these habits of writing, yet not without 
great regard for the prevalent conventions. These modifications 
are due to Paul's Christian ingeniousness and secondly, it was 
not at all uncommon for all letter writers of the first century 
A.D. to take varied liberties. Hence the great variety of details 
among the Greek papyrus letters. 36 Therefore it is safe to con- 
clude that Paul's writings, whether they be considered "epistles" 
or "letters," were written in genuine Greek letter-form conven- 


tional in the Ptolemaic and Roman period. We must now consider 
the two questions : Were they real letters or epistles, all thirteen 
or a part of them, and what type of letters or epistles are they? 

Did Paul write any of his letters with the publication of 
them in view? It is quite generally accepted that he did not. Their 
spontaneity and direction to the addressee are of all things most 
recognizable. It is quite evident from the letters themselves that 
the writer did not expect any but the persons to whom the letters 
were addressed would read them, except in the case of the 
Colossian correspondence (Col. 4:16) and possibly Ephesians. 
And even here the expanded group of readers still comprises a 
limited number of people. In all of the letters Paul addresses 
them to either a church in a particular district or to an individ- 
ual. In the case of the Roman letter, the addressees are "all. the 
called saints, beloved of God in Rome," which essentially means 
that Paul addresses his letter to the Church in Rome. And in 
the case of the Ephesian letter: Even though there is strong 
manuscript evidence of its being a circular letter, still that circle 
is a restricted one, and in that case the letter could have been 
directed to a certain district comprising several churches as in 
the case of the Galatian correspondence. 

Not only are the readers of the Pauline letters restricted, 
but also the things which Paul writes are directed against 
definite and specific problems or aspects of life in the several 
churches. Even in the Roman letter, which has been characterized 
as a mere theological treatise or compendium of Paul's theology 
dressed in the garb of a letter, there are strong marks which 
point to its being a pure pastoral letter addressed to particular 
needs of the Church in Rome. Paul establishes for the Church 
in Rome, which was made up of both Jewish and Gentile Chris- 
tians, the universality of the judgment of God and of his gospel. 
He points out the wickedness and state of separation from God 
on the part of both groups, and their need of the Savior of the 
Gospel. Paul also deals with the dispensation of the Jews and 
the Gentiles, all in direct contingency with the situation in Rome. 

Therefore in light of the facts it does not appear that Paul 
wrote his letters for publication. They were private letters direct- 
ed to a limited group of readers — not for the general public. The 
Apostle directed his writings to specific problems, which were 
for him only to be dealt with in a temporal situation. The truths 
that he wrote were eternal truths; yet the application of these 
truths was only seen by Paul in the temporal situation. We can 
safely conclude with Adolf Deissmann that the Pauline writings 
are genuine "letters," though later raised to literary letters to 


be published and read by men everywhere and in all ages be- 
cause of their eternal worth. 37 

Romans, the Corinthian correspondence, Galatians, Ephes- 
ians, Philippians, Colossians, and I and II Thessalonians were 
addressed to particular churches, and were written in reference 
to specific situations peculiar to those particular churches. 
Therefore these letters were pastoral letters as Paul wrote them. 

I and II Timothy, Titus, and Philemon were addressed to 
individuals. The Epistle of Paul to Philemon is obviously a 
"familiar letter" ; that is generally accepted. The Apostle writes 
real letters to Timothy and to Titus. Even in these the writer 
speaks of the requisites for the office of a bishop, of certain 
warnings which the young ministers should relay on to the 
churches under their care, of pastoral directions, of keeping 
alive in them the gift of their ministry, of guarding against 
unprofitable discussion, of disciplining disorderly teachers, and 
other pastoral directions. These letters are definitely "familiar 
letters" written from the elder to the younger ministers. How- 
ever, even here the pastoral content is strong. This is to be noted 
in Paul's writing to Philemon about his relation in the Church 
to his converted slave Onesimus. The Great Missionary wrote 
familiar letters, and his care for the Church was so great that 
the heart of the pastor as well as of the missionary is seen in 
all that he wrote. 

And now let us consider the remaining pieces of the 
epistolary literature. The Epistle to the Hebrews has nothing 
of the opening formula of a Greek letter. It is possible that at 
a very early date prior to the witness of any other parts, the 
opening formula could have been lost due to deterioration or 
some other cause. This supposition, however, because of the lack 
of any manuscript evidence is disputable. There are some per- 
sonal references, greetings, and a salutation, all in the last 
chapter which fit perfectly into the letter-forms studied thus 
far. The epistle is the longest book of the epistolary literature 
of the New Testament. And it is quite evidently written in the 
most polished style of all. These characteristics, however, though 
inclined away from the "real" letter-form, do not bar entirely 
a piece of writing from the category of the "real" letter. 38 

The Epistle has, except for the ending, the characteristic of 
an "elaborate essay" as C. A. Briggs has said. Here is the 
"elaborate and symmetrical argument written in brilliant style" 
as observed by R. G. Moulton. The author of Hebrews has a 
coherent plan which he executes in deliberate and beautiful style. 
The Epistle seems to have been written to a particular group of 


Jewish Christians. R. G. Moulton is probably most nearly right 
in classifying the Epistle to the Hebrews as an "epistolary 

The Epistle of James at the beginning has the appearance 
of a letter. The three parts of the conventional opening formula 
are distinctly present: James in the nominative case; to the 
twelve tribes which are of the dispersion in the dative case; and 
charein. The body of the epistle is definitely literature of a 
general order. It is made up of a number of short essays or 
sentences of ethical teaching, having the nature of wisdom 
literature. The ending has nothing of the nature of a letter. Since, 
therefore, the addressee is of a general character, and since the 
body of the Epistle is like a treatise, and since it lacks the ending 
of a letter with personal references ; the Epistle of James should 
be classed as an epistolary treatise. 

The First Epistle of Peter is definitely a pastoral letter. 
Its form is true to the conventional Greek letter form with per- 
sonal references. It is directed to a definite group of the Church, 
those of the elect who are of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, 
Cappadoncia, Asia, and Bithynia. Peter wrote to meet a definite 
situation among these Christians. As a pastor he comforted and 
exhorted them to steadfastness in persecution. 

The Second Epistle of Peter is an epistolary treatise. It has 
the form of a letter in the beginning. It is addressed to a general 
group of readers, "to those who have obtained equal precious 
faith." The lack of personal references is noticeable. If its 
authenticity can be accepted, Peter in this epistle writes a last 
testimony before his departure. "Yea, I will give diligence that 
at every time ye may be able after my decease to call these things 
to remembrance" (1:15). He reminds his readers of the sure 
witness that he had given of "the power and coming of our Lord 
Jesus Christ" (1:16). Then he warns about the entrance of false 
teachers and of the suddeness of the coming of the Lord. Finally, 
Peter exhorts to steadfastness and closes with a doxology. The 
epistle is like the final blessing of a patriarch of Israel, calling 
witness to the faithfulness of God and his own steadfastness in 
covenant with God, and his exhortation to steadfastness in 
keeping covenant with God on the part of the children of God. 

The first Epistle of John has nothing of the form of the 
Greek letter used so profusely by St. Paul. References to writing 
to particular persons occur frequently in the epistle. "My little 
children, these things I write unto you" (2:1). "I write unto 
you, my little children. ... I write unto you, fathers. ... I 
write unto you, young men" (2:12, 13). "Little Children, it is 


last the hour" (2:18). "Marvel not, brethren, if the world hate 
you" (3:13). Here we see John's readers are addressed in the 
vocative case. And he closes with "Little children, guard your- 
selves from idols." In the light of these references it is evident 
that the Epistle is written in epistolary form. It is addressed to 
the general reading public. It is a treatise in which John urges 
the children of God to walk with God as those delivered from 
sin by the manifestation of the Son of God. He denounces the 
love of the world and pleads for the children of God to love God 
and their brethren. The Epistle is an epistolary treatise. 

The second Epistle of John is either a private letter or a 
pastoral letter, depending on the interpretation of the addressee, 
eklektei kurai kai tois teknois antes (to the chosen lady and her 
children). The more correct interpretation is in all probability 
the spiritual one which is in connection with the exhortation of 
verse 5 : "I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote to thee a 
new commandment, but that which we had from the beginning, 
that we love one another." The salutation at the end of the "chil- 
dren of thine elect sister" would be members of a sister church. 
The little epistle conforms fully to the conventional letter form 
of the Hellenistic period. The letter was written to meet a specific 
need. The addressee was in danger of receiving false teachers. 
The exhortation was not to receive them into her house (church) . 
She also needed to be exhorted to love. 

The third Epistle of John is a "familiar letter" pure and 
simple. It is true to the form of the Hellenistic letter. It is inter- 
esting to note the unique salutation of the opening formula and 
its closeness to the type mentioned by Exler quoted in conclusion 
number 9 above. The presbyter writes to Gaius whom he loves 
commending him for his living a true Christian life and aiding 
journeying brethren and strangers. Reference is made to an 
unruly acquaintance of the writer and his correspondent. Other 
personal reference is made, and a future personal visit is 

The Epistle of Jude at the beginning has the form of a letter. 
"Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them 
that are beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ, 
being called : Mercy unto you and peace and love be multiplied." 
Jude warns his readers against ungodly men "who have crept 
in privily" — evidently a heresy. And he exhorts to earnest faith. 
He is concerned about the danger of his readers' falling away. 
Absence of personal reference is noticeable. Even though the 
addressee is of a general nature; yet because the problem dealt 
with seems to be a specific situation, it appears that this little 


letter should be considered a pastoral letter directed to a specific 
group though hardly discernable in the term of the addressee. 

The Revelation of John is treated by Deissmann as an 
epistle. To be sure the book is cast in a epistolary form ; yet be- 
cause of its stronger relation to another form of Biblical litera- 
ture, it is more proper to place it in a separate category from the 
epistolary literature as such in the New Testament. 

In the light of this study, therefore, the epistolary literature 
of the New Testament could be classified in the following 
manner : 

Pastoral Letters Epistolary Treatises 

Romans Hebrews 

I Corinthians James 

II Corinthians II Peter 
Galatians I John 


Colossians Familiar Letters 

I Thessalonians I Timothy 

II Thessalonians II Timothy 

I Peter Titus 

II John Philemon 
Jude III John 


1 R. G. Moulton, A Short Introduction to the Literature of the 
Bible (Boston, 1901), p. 105. 

2 Ibid., Ill: "It is not addressed to any church; it is intended for 
general circulation among 'all that are in Rome, beloved of God, called to 
be saints. . . .'" This might hold good also for Ephesians in light of 

3 Ibid., p. 113. 

* Ibid., pp. 187, 188. 

5 Ibid., p. 187. 

6 Briggs, C. A., General Introduction to the Study of Holy Scrip- 
ture, New York, 1899), p. 340. 

7 Otto Roller failed to make a distinction between official docu- 
ments and private letters. {Das Formular der paulinischen Brief e, Stuttgart, 
1933, p. 29). This caused him to require a degree of definiteness of form 
not genuine, and too constrictive for the Pauline letters. There were definite 
forms for letter writing commonly used in Paul's time. Paul did not ignore 
them but used them: "deren Anwendung konventionell erfolgte." Yet he 
exercised some freedom within these bounds for his own personal creation. 


Moreover, most letter writers took quite a little freedom in their usage of 
these forms and did not conform themselves as consistently to the norm 
as Roller would have us think. Ibid. p. 30: "Diese vier Stucke, . . . namlich 
die Erkennbarkeit vom Absender, vom Adressaten, von der Vollstandigkeit, 
die hier durch Anrede und Unterschrift sichergestellt ist and der Authentizi- 
tat, sind also fur den Brief wesentlich, obwohl sie mit dem Inhalte an sich 
nichts su tun haben. Auch das Datum rechnet man heute zu einem vollstan- 
digen Briefe, doch kann es im Altertum wie heute, namentlich in Privat- 
briefen, leicht fehlen, ohne den Briefcharakter in Frage zu stellen. Die vier 
erstgenannten Stucke aber waren und sind stets notwendige Teile des Briefes 
gewesen und zu alien Zeiten in bestimmte Formen gekleidet worden." 

8 A. Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East, trans, by L.M.R. 
Atrachan (2nd edition; New York, 1911), pp. 146, 147. 

9 Ibid., p. 236. 
io Ibid., p. 223. 

1 1 The private character and spontaneity of Paul's letters are ger- 
mane to the reliability of their positively documentary value for the history 
of the apostolic period. Deissmann's poetic description of the milieu out of 
which the letters of Paul sprung bears quoting. "If the artisan-missionary 
at Ephesus wishes to talk to the foolish Galatians or the poor brethren at 
Corinth, then in the midst of the hurry and worry of pressing daily duties 
he dictates a letter, adding at the end a few lines roughly written with his 
own hand and weary weaver's hand. These were no books or pamphlets 
for the world or even for Christendom; they were confidential pronounce- 
ments, of whose existence and contents the missionary's nearest companions 
often knew nothing: Luke even writes his Acts of the Apostles without 
knowledge of the letters of St. Paul (which were written but not yet 
published) ." 

1 2 Deissmann, op. cit., p. 225. 

13 Deissmann, op. cit.: "Paul's letter to Philemon is no doubt the 
one most clearly seen to be a letter" (p. 226). 

14 Ibid.: "The first Epistle to the Corinthians ... is no pamphlet 
addressed to the Christian public, but a real letter to Corinth in part an 
answer to a letter from the church there" (p. 228, f.). 

15 Ibid.: "The two Epistles to the Thessalonians are also genuine 
letters, the first even more so than the second. They represent, so to say, 
the average type of Paul's letters" (p. 229). 

16 Ibid.: "Third John was entirely a private note ... it must have 
been preserved among the papers of Gaius as a relic of the great presbyter" 
(p. 234). 

17 Ibid.: "Paul's letter to the Romans . . . is least like a letter. . . . 
Romans is a long letter ... it is not an epistle addressed to all the world 
or even to Christendom, containing ... a compendium of St. Paul's dog- 
matic and ethical teaching" (p. 231). 

18 Ibid.: "The longest 'epistle' in the New Testament, the so-called 
Epistle to the Hebrews, is altogether anonymous, as it has come down to 
us. Even the 'address' has vanished. Were it not for some details in 13:22- 
24 that sound letter-like, one would never suppose that the work was meant 
to be an epistle, not to mention a letter" (p. 236). 


19 Ibid.: "The Epistle of James is from the beginning a little work 
of literature, a pamphlet addressed to the whole of Christendom, a vertible 
epistle. The whole of its contents agrees therewith. There is none of the 
unique detail peculiar to the situation, such as we have in the letters of 
St. Paul, but simply general questions, most of them still conceivable under 
the present conditions of our church life" (p. 236). 

20 Ibid.: "The Epistles of Peter and of Jude . . . quite unreal 
addresses; the letter-like touches are purely decorative" (p. 235). 

21 Ibid., pp. 237, f. 

22 ibid., p. 237. 

23 This study, a doctrinal dissertation, was published in 1923: 
Francis Xaxier J. Exler, The Form of the Ancient Greek Letter; A Study 
in Greek Epistolography (Washington: Cath. Univ. of Amer.). 

24 Ibid., p. 12. 

25 Ibid., p. 62. 

26 Ibid., p. 136. 

27 Ibid., pp. 60, 61. 
™Ibid., pp. 134, 69. 

29 Ibid., p. 135. 

30 Henry A. Steen ("Les Cliches Epistolaires dan les Lettres sur 
Papyrus Grecques," Classica et Mediaevalia, I, 1938, p. 124) believes that 
reluctance of the usage of imperatives was due to a certain sense of courtesy. 

31 Exler, op. cit., p. 134. 

32 Ibid., pp. 136, 137. 

33 Ibid., p. 133. 

3 4 Ibid., p. 110. 
3 5 Ibid., p. 98. 

36 Vide supra No. 8, page 9. 

3 7 In connection with this the comment of two other scholars: 
George Milligan: "Pauline writings . . . are popular rather than literary in 
their origin, and were, intended, in the first instance, not for publication, 
or for after-ages, but to meet the immediate practical needs of the Churches 
and individuals to whom they v/ere in the first instance addressed" {Here 
& There Among the Papyri, London, 1922, p. 32). Wm. Ramsay: "In the 
individual case they [the letters] discover the universal principle, and state 
it in such a way as to reach the heart of every man similarly situated, and 
yet they state this, not in the way of formal exposition, but in the way of 
direct personal converse, written in place of spoken" {The Letters of the 
Seven Churches of Asia, London, 1904, page 25). 

38 Exler, op. cit.: "Though length as such does not affect the nature 
of a letter, too great length would establish a presumption against any work 
being properly classified under epistolography" (page 17). "A real letter 
may be polished or unpolished" (page 17). 


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